Council employee waits 5 years for near-death fall compensationSeptember 1, 2010
A mountain guide who suffered catastrophic injuries when he fell 40ft from a cliff in North Wales is still battling for compensation for his accident five years on. David Howard-Jones was walking along a cliff top in July 2004 when he tripped and fell over the cliff-edge into the sea, leaving him with injuries so grave as to force him into retirement.
After 31 years as head of Snowdonia National Park’s Ogwen Cottage Outdoor Pursuits Centre, Mr Howard-Jones was left partially deaf, blind and with orthopaedic problems which prevented him from working as a mountain guide again. Birmingham City Council, the owners of the Outdoor Centre, which had been used by school groups since the 1960’s, refused Mr Howard-Jones’personal injury claim on the grounds that he had been negligent in walking to close to the cliff edge.
Lucky to be alive
On the day of the accident, Mr Howard-Jones was walking with a colleague when he approached the cliff edge to assist his companion. Stepping into a hole, Mr Howard-Jones sustained an injury to the cruciate ligament in his knee and fell over the edge, plunging 40ft into the sea below. His colleague dived in to save the mountaineer, but Mr. Howard-Jones said of the dramatic accident that he was “lucky to be alive,” (Birmingham Post, 2009).
Yet, despite having won his appeal into the Council’s decision, after five years the mountain guide and former schoolteacher has yet to be given a penny while disputes over the exact amount continue. Almost £13,000 worth of costs have mounted up during the legal battle, notwithstanding Mr Howard-Jones’ complaints that after 34 years of service to the Council they had refused to make any improvements to his retirement package and pension fund.
However, Mr Howard-Jones has declared that he was initially only seeking compensation for his injuries under the council employees’ personal accident scheme. He denies the charge of negligence, saying that the British Mountain Guides Association had investigated the accident and supported his claims.
Birmingham City Council asserted that this was in no way a case of employer liability, and that it was “an issue of culpable negligence” on Mr Howard-Jones’ part which had prevented him from satisfying the criteria for council compensation. A council spokesperson nonetheless stated that Birmingham City Council was in accordance with the final decision of the arbitrator who handled the appeal, and added that the council were still “in the process of determining what the compensation pay-out for Mr. Howard-Jones should be,” (Birmingham Post, 2009).