A judge has held a mum partly responsible for the horrific injuries her toddler suffered after she put her on the wrong booster seat – despite their car being smashed into by a teenage driver high on drunk and drugs.
Emma Williams suffered brain and spinal damage when her mum Louise's Seat Leon was hit in August 2006.
Emma had been placed on a seat designed for older, taller children.
A court heard that Dayne Williams, 18, was high on drink and drugs, when he swerved onto the wrong side of the road and hit Mrs Williams' car on the A528, near Wrexham. He died of his injuries.
But Lady Justice Black said that although there was no doubt the accident was entirely caused by his 'extremely dangerous' driving, Mrs Williams bore 25 per cent responsibility for her daughter's injuries, because she had put her on a booster cushion designed for a four-year-old.
However, the judge emphasised that Mrs Williams was in no way to blame for the smash and described her as 'an excellent and caring mother whose daughter's safety was naturally of paramount importance to her'.
But she went on to rule that, although her 'conduct was similar to thousands of other parents' and no law had been broken, the mother had been negligent in not placing Emma in a five-point Mamas & Papas baby harness that was also in the family car.
A High Court judge ruled last year that, although the teenager driver's insurers had admitted primary liability for Emma's injuries, Mrs Williams, of Dudleston Heath, near Ellesmere, Shropshire, could not escape partial responsibility for the tragedy.
Lady Justice Black, sitting at London's Appeal Court, dismissed her appeal against that ruling. She said that while Emma, at 15kg, was heavy enough for the booster cushion, she was eight centimetres too short for it.
Emma was also 10 months short of her fourth birthday, the minimum age recommended by the manufacturers.
Although Emma seemed 'comfortable and secure' on the cushion, the instruction booklet that came with it 'contained clear and repeated warnings' that a failure to use it correctly could result in serious injury or death, added the judge.
Emphasising the dangers of 'premature graduation of a child from a harness seat to a booster seat or a seat belt', the judge, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Elias, said the threat to Emma was 'reasonably foreseeable'.
Although Mrs Williams, like so many other parents, was convinced Emma would be safe, the little girl simply 'did not fit all the requirements' for the booster cushion, concluded the judge, dismissing the mother's appeal.
Graham Eklund QC, for Mrs Williams, earlier told the court she had been weaning Emma out of her baby seat as she was much more comfortable on the booster.
The mother had read the instruction leaflet carefully before deciding that Emma would be safe. In the absence of Emma's father, who died before she was born,
Mrs Williams had watched what other people did with their children, asked their advice and did research.
"As a result of Emma's father having died seven weeks before Emma was born, if anything Mrs Williams had been a paranoid mother, always following Emma around to ensure that she was safe," the barrister added.
"If the decision to restrain Emma in a booster cushion reflected the state of awareness of many other parents, and was clearly a decision that many other parents would have taken, or did take, Mrs Williams could not be regarded as negligent in taking the decision that she did."
Jonathan Watt-Pringle QC, for Dayne Williams' insurers, said it was 'tragic' and 'sad' case, but pointed out that parents doing their absolute best for their children sometimes act negligently and unwittingly cause them harm.
The result of Mrs Williams' appeal will have no impact on the very substantial compensation now due to Emma but means that 25 per cent of the bill must be covered by the mother's insurers.
More on Parentdish: Car seat confusion - the law and advice on correct fitting.