Mark Pollock in line for millions in compensation after falling from window in friend’s house
An adventurer who became the first blind man to reach the South Pole is in line for multi-million-pound compensation after falling out of a window during the Henley Regatta.
Mark Pollock sued his friends, Enda and Madeline Cahill, after the 25-foot plunge onto the patio of their home in the Oxfordshire town during the July 2010 regatta.
The disaster struck soon after his return from the 1,400-mile Round Ireland Yacht Race and just weeks before he was due to marry his fiancée, Simone George.
The 39-year-old Commonwealth Games medal winner was staying with the couple when he fell through the window of his upstairs bedroom, suffering catastrophic spinal injuries.
His legal team, led by Mr Christopher Wilson-Smith QC, blamed Mr and Mrs Cahill at London's High Court, saying the window should never have been left open.
The accident left Mr Pollock paralysed, confined to a wheelchair and dependent on care.
Today, after a week-long trial at London's High Court, Mr Justice William Davis upheld his claim against the couple.
The ruling means Mr Pollock will receive massive compensation from the Cahills' household insurers to cover the costs of all the care and assistance he will need for life.
Mr Pollock earlier told the court he had no memory of the accident but that he was probably 'on his way to the bathroom and was disorientated and tripped out the window'.
However, the Cahills, of Woodview, Remenham Lane, Henley, have always denied the accident was in any way their fault.
Their barrister, Stephen Grime QC, described it as 'a freak combination of circumstances' which no one could have foreseen and for which 'no one can or should be blamed'.
Querying Mr Pollock's theory about his fall, the barrister said he might have leaned out of the window or even been sleep-walking.
However, Mr Wilson-Smith insisted that the 'only sensible interpretation' of the evidence was that 'this accident was caused because the window was left open'.
An 'open window at that height, without warning, constituted a trap. He was snared by that trap and he sustained his injuries', he told the court.
He said there was not a 'shred of evidence' that Mr Pollock was sleep-walking or believed that he was climbing out of a cabin or hatch on a boat.
Mr Pollock, lost his sight in 1998 at the age of 22 but went on to win bronze and silver medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
He has taken part in extreme marathons and Ironman events and, since his fall, has helped pioneer use of robotic legs..
Mr Pollock's lawyers say he has limited his damages claim to the amount which can be recovered under the Cahills' household insurance.
He had done so with the express intention of ensuring that the couple did not have to pay out themselves.
The amount of his payout has yet to be assessed, but is bound to be a seven-figure sum given the costs of his long-term care.
Mr Justice Davis ruled that the open window created an obvious risk for a blind person, particularly on the second storey of a house with nothing to prevent a fall to the ground below.
He 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".
Mr Pollock's lawyers confirmed outside court that he had limited his claim to a maximum of £2 million, the limit of the Cahills' household insurance.
Given the extent of his lost earnings and future care needs, that was only a fraction of the total value of his claim.
His solicitor, Ben Rogers, said outside court: “Mark Pollock is a remarkable man and has conducted himself with the utmost integrity in relation to this claim and in relation to his paralysis.
"Coupled with his pre-accident blindness, the incident has left him with enormous challenges in his life.”
He added: "Mark limited the sum claimed in damages to the limit of his friends’ insurance policy, so that they would not have to pay anything personally.
"The claim was therefore limited to a fraction of its full value.
"The damages that Mark will recover are essential to assist him with his additional care and rehabilitation needs following the accident".