Chichester tree surgeon loses damages claim against National Trust over accident which left him in a wheelchair

The Argus: Morden Hall Park Morden Hall Park

A Chichester tree surgeon paralysed after falling 50 feet from an ancient horse chestnut which he was trying to dismantle has lost his damages claim against the National Trust.

Jamie Yates was injured while working on Trust land at Morden Hall Park in December 2009.

Mr Yates, 26, of Carleton Road, who has no memory of the accident which left him in a wheelchair, was using a chainsaw on the decayed and infected 80 feet high tree which was nearing the end of its life.

Mr Justice Nicol at London's High Court was told that it was probable that a branch Mr Yates was using as an anchor point for his safety rope snapped.

Mr Yates, who was self-employed and working for an independent contractor, had never dismantled a tree of such height before and did not have the certificate relating to sectional felling.

Counsel Christopher Wilson-Smith said the issue was whether it was reasonable for the Trust, which denied negligence or breach of duty, to instruct the contractors.

Dismissing the case, the judge said that even if the Trust owed Mr Yates a duty of care in deciding to hire the contractor, which it did not, it was not in breach of that duty as it was entitled to regard the contractor as reasonably safe and competent.

He added: "The claimant suffered a fall which caused him grave injuries.

They have radically altered his life and, in addition to the pain and suffering which he must have endured, they will have caused him very substantial financial loss. Anyone who learns of the case must have enormous sympathy for him.

"The NT - or its insurers - undoubtedly has a deeper pocket than he does. If the question before me was which of the two was best placed to shoulder these losses there could be only one answer. But that is not the question which I have had to address.

"The claimant is entitled to compensation from the NT if, and only if, the NT owed him a relevant duty of care. I have concluded that it did not."

Comments (4)

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3:09pm Mon 10 Feb 14

Boshay says...

Sympathies for the man but why try to claim from the NT, when being self-employed, he should have had his own insurance or failing that the contractor who employed him.
Sympathies for the man but why try to claim from the NT, when being self-employed, he should have had his own insurance or failing that the contractor who employed him. Boshay

4:12pm Mon 10 Feb 14

qm says...

Would have thought that if he was an employee of the sub-contractor, the onus would be on his employer to ensure that he was appropriately certificated to carry out the specialist operation. If he was himself a sub-contractor hired to carry out the operation, the onus would have been upon himself as he alone would be responsible for any risk.
This is a terrible thing to happen to a young man and I would have thought the NT on the basis of accepting no responsibility, could find it in their hearts to make an ex-gratia payment the help him adjust to such life-changing circumstances!
Would have thought that if he was an employee of the sub-contractor, the onus would be on his employer to ensure that he was appropriately certificated to carry out the specialist operation. If he was himself a sub-contractor hired to carry out the operation, the onus would have been upon himself as he alone would be responsible for any risk. This is a terrible thing to happen to a young man and I would have thought the NT on the basis of accepting no responsibility, could find it in their hearts to make an ex-gratia payment the help him adjust to such life-changing circumstances! qm

6:19pm Mon 10 Feb 14

Goldenwight says...

Whilst I have some sympathy for this guy, who has afer all been severerly incapacitiated, I have to look at the case rationally.

He had no experience, he had no (necessary) certificate of experience- what the HELL was he doing?
Whilst I have some sympathy for this guy, who has afer all been severerly incapacitiated, I have to look at the case rationally. He had no experience, he had no (necessary) certificate of experience- what the HELL was he doing? Goldenwight

7:44pm Mon 10 Feb 14

KarenT says...

Not sure why he or the contractor he was working for did not secure insurance? Of course it is terrible what has happened to this chap, but the NT isn't at fault! If they made any effort towards compensation then can you imagine how vulnerable they would become to lawsuits by visitors and professionals for any sort of injury or accident had on their grounds, despite it's authenticity? You have to draw the line somewhere, or just go into liquidation after you settle every accident claim that comes your way. You DON'T fell trees for a living without insurance. YES it's expensive, as you would expect. No surprises there.
Not sure why he or the contractor he was working for did not secure insurance? Of course it is terrible what has happened to this chap, but the NT isn't at fault! If they made any effort towards compensation then can you imagine how vulnerable they would become to lawsuits by visitors and professionals for any sort of injury or accident had on their grounds, despite it's authenticity? You have to draw the line somewhere, or just go into liquidation after you settle every accident claim that comes your way. You DON'T fell trees for a living without insurance. YES it's expensive, as you would expect. No surprises there. KarenT

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