£2m award for blind athlete in window fall upheld
A couple ordered to pay multi-million pound compensation after a blind adventurer from Northern Ireland fell out of a window during the Henley Regatta have failed in a last-ditch bid to overturn the decision.
Mark Pollock, the first blind man to reach the South Pole, sued his friends Enda and Madeline Cahill after the 25ft plunge onto their patio in Remenham Lane.
Disaster struck in July 2010 soon after his return from the 1,400-mile Round Ireland Yacht Race and just weeks before he was due to marry his fiancee Simone George.
The 39-year-old Commonwealth Games medal winner, originally from Holywood in Co Down but now living in Dublin, was staying with the couple when he fell through the window of his upstairs bedroom. He suffered catastrophic spinal injuries which left him paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.
It was a "very sad" and "puzzling" case, Lord Justice Moore-Bick told London's Appeal Court yesterday.
After a hearing last July, Mr Justice William Davis ruled: "I am satisfied that the Cahills failed to discharge the common law duty of care they owed as occupiers. The open window was a real risk to Mr Pollock. They created that risk."
Stephen Grime QC, for the Cahills, argued the judge should have taken into account that Mr Pollock was a "resourceful" man and had stayed in the same room before. An "ordinary domestic occupier" like Mrs Cahill would not have realised an open window on a warm day caused a particular danger to anyone.
Lord Justice Moore-Bick said it was "clearly open to the judge to make the finding he did" about how Mr Pollock fell out the window.
He said the "important questions" were whether Mrs Cahill left the window open and whether she should have foreseen the risk of doing so.
"In my view, it is essentially a matter for the trial judge who has heard all the evidence from the witnesses to determine what was and was not foreseeable," said Lord Justice Moore-Bick.
The judge was "entitled to find that Mrs Cahill had identified risk, albeit not the degree of risk which existed".
"In my view the judge's conclusions were open to him on the evidence. For these reasons I refuse permission to appeal."
He said he had "enormous sympathy" for Mr Pollock but also for the Cahills, for whom it was a "really unpleasant" thing to happen at their home.
Mr Pollock lost his sight in 1998 at the age of 22 but went on to win bronze and silver medals in rowing at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
He has taken part in extreme marathons and ironman events, and since his fall has helped pioneer the use of robotic legs.
He limited his claim to a maximum of £2m, the limit of the Cahill's household insurance, with the express intention of ensuring that the couple did not have to pay out themselves.