Devon

No compensation for Plymouth student injured in fall

A man who suffered brain injuries during a student night out has lost his fight for compensation.

Jonathan Harvey, 28, of Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth, fell 20ft (6m) over a fence on to a car park on council-owned land in April 2003.

He claimed the council failed to maintain the fence and last year the High Court ruled it should shoulder 25% of legal liability.

However the Civil Court of Appeal has ruled the council was not responsible.

Mr Harvey, a Southampton University student, had been out with three friends after watching a friend play rugby for Plymouth Albion's youth team.

He had been drinking heavily and was running away from a taxi driver when the accident happened at the Tesco store car park in Woolwell.

Mr Harvey sustained serious head injuries and spent eight months in Plymouth's Derriford Hospital. He still has mobility and communication difficulties caused by bleeding on the brain.

He claimed the council had failed to properly maintain the fence he fell over.

Judge John Leighton Williams QC said in the High Court ruling that although Mr Harvey had to bear the lion's share of responsibility for his own misfortune, the council should shoulder 25% of legal liability.

The council challenged his ruling, arguing that it placed an "impossible burden" on it.

Edward Faulks QC said the council should have no responsibility for a "simple accident" suffered by someone taking a risk of their own "free will".

In his ruling, Lord Justice Carnwath said Mr Harvey had every reason to believe he was entitled to be on the council's land and Plymouth's argument that they owed him no legal duty was "unrealistic".

'Sad case'

However, the judge, sitting with Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Hughes, said Mr Harvey could not meet the definition of a "visitor" under the 1957 Occupiers Liability Act and on that point of law the city council's appeal must succeed.

"I reach this conclusion with considerable sympathy for the claimant, whose life has been blighted by a tragic accident," Lord Justice Carnwath said.

Plymouth City Council said it was satisfied with the judgement.

A spokesman said: "This is a very sad case where a young man has been left with life-changing injuries.

"This was a tragic accident and the council has considerable sympathy for Mr Harvey."

Mr Harvey's counsel, Stephen Killalea QC, was not available for comment.

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