Settlement for young mother after a night out with friends

An extremely difficult case involving paraplegia following a fall over a barrier in Derby City Centre. Damian Horan was assisted by Anna West, James Wood and Christine Dowling of Aspire Law plus leading counsel, David Knifton KC of Exchange Chambers.



In the early hours of a Sunday morning our client was walking home after a night out with friends. She was accompanied by two others. Our client was behind her friends who were ahead, keen to reach the taxi they had booked to take them home. Moments from reaching the taxi our client disappeared. She was subsequently found by her friends at the bottom of a descending ramp to a car park. She had fallen more than 10 feet over a barrier. Our client sustained a complete T12 spinal cord injury and a head injury.



Following instructions to pursue her claim, Aspire Law went immediately to the scene to investigate the nature of the barrier over which she fell. The barrier was noted to be low at around 100 cm with a drop of up to 12 feet on the other side.


The barrier appeared to be the relic of an old road system that had since been pedestrianised, but leaving the old road barrier in place.


Aspire Law instructed an expert engineer on roads and safety to report on the appropriateness of the barrier and its compliance with regulation and health and safety. The expert’s preliminary report supported our client’s case, that the barrier was too low and that it didn’t comply with health and safety requirements.


Litigation Process

On its face the case looked relatively straight forward given the expert evidence and the low barrier. However, as the claim progressed, and the recording of the emergency services telephone call from our client’s friends was provided, the claim became more challenging. The conversation with the emergency services suggested there was a fair amount of high spiritedness before the fall and the possibility that our client had jumped onto the barrier and then fallen.


The defendants in the case refused to co-operate, forcing Aspire Law to issue court proceedings against the defendants.


Difficulties following injury

Our client had an extremely tough time following the fall. She had a young daughter and was unable to work. Due to the nature of the accident and the evidence of playfulness, moments before the fall, the defendant solicitors weren’t helpful. They declined to give our client any assistance and maintained a strong denial of liability.


Nevertheless, our client had a strong will and a supportive family. With the assistance of Aspire Law we were able to get our client into suitable accommodation with her daughter. Given the defendants refusal to assist our client, she was reliant on Aspire Law, benefits and family for support.


Developments during the claim

Aspire Law arranged a number of conferences with counsel and leading experts to discuss and agree the best strategy for this case. Whilst the barrier was thought too low this evidence was marred by the evidence of the potential negligence by our client.


As the claim progressed and despite the defendant’s denial of liability, there were unexpected alterations made to the barrier that our client fell over. The defendants installed a new balustrade doubling the height of the barrier. This strongly suggested that, despite the denial of liability, the defendants agreed the barrier was too low and did not comply with health and safety regulations. This would prove helpful to our client.



The claim was worth many millions of pounds but against this background was the fact that our client appeared have put herself in danger through her own enthusiasm. Therefore, the valuation had to take into account the risk of losing at any liability trial.



Eventually, the defendants did make a cash offer to our client. It was, however much less than Aspire Law and our client wanted. The offer wasn’t declined rather Aspire Law pressed for a joint settlement meeting between the parties to see if there was a position upon which we could all agree.


Our client was anxious to settle her claim but was determined not to agree a figure that didn’t provide for her family. The meeting went well. With an emphasis on the recent alterations to the barrier’s height, Aspire Law were able to secure a settlement three times higher than the earlier offer from the defendants.



This was a very deserving case; with a young mother now able to support her family for the rest of her life. The case is a good example of how the actions of a claimant can impact a claim. However, with supportive expert evidence, a firm position and court proceedings, Aspire Law were able to extract a significant sum from the defendants despite the poor prospects of a successful trial.


Damian Horan, Legal Director says

“This was a very challenging claim where liability was always going to be extremely difficult to prove. It demonstrates the value of instructing an experienced team who will leave no stone unturned and will persist with the case to get the right outcome”


Drinks with Friends

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