Stoke & Staffordshire

Thomas Buckett: Roof fall family lose compensation bid

Thomas Buckett Image copyright Other
Image caption Thomas Buckett was 16 at the time of the fall

The family of a teenager left with severe head injuries after a roof fall has been ordered to pay £150,000 after losing a compensation claim.

Thomas Buckett, now 21, fell 15ft (4.5m) through a skylight at Clayton Hall Business and Language College, Staffordshire, in May 2010.

He shattered one side of his skull and was in a critical condition for two weeks.

A compensation claim launched by his family was thrown out on Monday.

'Jumped on skylight'

Judge Main QC heard Mr Buckett had been left with "a legacy of significant physical, intellectual and behavioural dysfunction" but found that the injuries "arose directly from his own actions".

He heard Mr Buckett was part of a group of youths that had earlier broken into the college and engaged in "vandalism, criminal damage and dishonest criminal behaviour", including stealing items from the tuck shop.

The judge, sitting at Telford County Court, concluded the group had moved on to explore part of the roof and Mr Buckett had probably jumped down on to the skylight, "thinking it would hold his weight and not with the intention of breaking it".

While criticising a Staffordshire County Council risk assessment and saying such a trespass incident should have been foreseen, Judge Main found in favour of the authority and dismissed the claim.

The Buckett family has declined to comment.

Their solicitors described the judge's ruling as "extremely disappointing".

Image copyright Google
Image caption The judge heard there had been numerous trespass incidents at Clayton Hall Business and Language College

'Life-changing impact'

Dianne Yates, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, said the judge had dismissed legal arguments in respect to the "criminal behaviour", but had not been able to award damages due to case law.

"Thomas has suffered life-changing injuries and the family is now looking at how they can ensure he has sufficient care going forward," she said.

In a statement, Staffordshire County Council described it as a "terrible incident" that had "a profound and life-changing impact on Thomas and his family".

"However, our decision to defend this case was about fairness to the taxpayer," council chief executive John Tradewell said.

He said it was not fair for public money to be used for compensation under these circumstances.

"The county council will continue to help Thomas access the care and support he needs to live as fulfilling a life as possible."

The family was ordered to pay £150,000 costs.

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