On 03/04/2012 the Claimant, an 88 year old woman, was injured by a set of revolving doors at the First Defendant's (D1) airport. The doors were electrically powered and continually rotating, such that pedestrians were required to enter a chamber and keep walking ahead of the doors in order to exit.
As the Claimant approached the exit, she paused briefly and was caught by the advancing door. She was knocked over and pushed along the floor before the door came to a stop.
The doors were manufactured and installed by the Second Defendant (D2) and were fitted with sensors that were supposed to stop them if they came into contact with an object.
The Claimant suffered a multiple fracture to her left femur. She was kept in a local hospital for three weeks before being transferred to a hospital near her home where she remained for a further three weeks before being discharged home.
The Claimant suffered pain for approximately 18 months and her mobility and ability to carry out activities of daily living were severely affected. Subsequent orthopaedic expert evidence concluded that the injury would have reduced her ability to live independently by three to four years.
Despite the Claimant's age, prior to the accident she had been living entirely independently and was the main carer for her disabled adult son. As a result of the accident and the Claimant's subsequent disability, her son was taken into local authority care and was not able to return to live with her. Naturally this was a source of great distress for both the Claimant and her son.
In August 2014, the Claimant suffered a mini-stroke unconnected to the accident, which would in any event have curtailed her ability to care for her son.
A Letter of Claim was sent to D1 alleging that the accident and personal injuries had resulted from its negligence. In particular, the doors had failed to stop when they came into contact with the Claimant.
D1 denied liability, on the basis that the doors were checked on a regular basis and taken out of service if there were any problems. D1 asserted that the doors had been checked following the incident and no fault detected. Furthermore, fitted to the outside of the door there was a ‘slow' button which would reduce the speed of the door for particularly vulnerable users. D1 provided disclosure in support of the denial.
Subsequent investigation showed that this button was only available on the opposite side of the door from which the Claimant approached. In any event, it was the Claimant's case that she was not walking particularly slowly, and the accident was caused by the failure (or non-existence) of the necessary safety features installed to detect an obstruction in the doors and stop or slow them accordingly.
Having reviewed D1's disclosure, the Claimant's solicitors noted that a risk assessment carried out a few years before had added "children" as an additional risk, and at the same time additional signage was installed warning of risks. Furthermore, the ‘inspection documents' provided by the Defendant were wholly inadequate as evidence of the doors being checked on a regular basis for safe operation.
Further disclosure of accident reports for the three months either side of the Claimant's accident was requested. The Defendant refused, asserting that this was disproportionate to the nature of the claim.
On the advice of Counsel, the Claimant obtained expert engineering evidence, which identified that:
i) There was no evidence of the doors undergoing weekly safety checks
ii) The ‘reduced speed' (which the doors should slow to if an obstruction was detected) was set at 30 - 40% higher than the required British Standard Code of Practice.
iii) The ‘leading edge' sensor fitted to the door had failed to engage, causing the door to hit the Claimant and continue moving round without stopping or slowing.
Further analysis suggested that there was a ‘blind spot' in the doors sensors which could have led to the doors continuing to operate despite an obstruction. A Letter of Claim was sent to D2, on the basis that the doors that they had supplied, installed and maintained for D1 were inherently dangerous.
Further disclosure from D1 also revealed that a previous accident had occurred involving a child in August 2010 (approximately two years before the Claimant's accident). Claimant solicitors renewed their request for disclosure of all accident reports involving the doors since 2010. D1 maintained its position that such accident reports were not relevant to the claim and disproportionate to provide.
An application for Pre-Action Disclosure was made in June 2014. At the Hearing, it was ordered that D1 should disclose accident reports for the 12 months prior to the Claimant's accident (i.e. to 2011 rather than 2010). These reports revealed that there had been eight similar accidents involving the revolving doors at the airport in the preceding year. Despite this, D2 also denied liability, claiming that an adequate system of inspection and maintenance was in place and that no defects had been detected.
Proceedings were issued against both Defendants and served together with medical evidence and Schedule of Special Damages in December 2014. Shortly before the exchange of budgets and the CCMC, D2 advised that they would be taking over the claim on behalf of both Defendants.
Settlement negotiations commenced and a figure of £60,000 was agreed without admission of liability.
The claim was settled on a global basis for £60,000 however, a rough breakdown of the settlement figure is as follows:
General Damages: £20,000
Special Damages: £40,000 to include £4,000 for gratuitous care provided to the Claimant, £1,500 for care provided for the Claimant's son, £50 for medical expenses, £1,800 for travel costs, £5,000 for aids and equipment including installation of a stair lift in the Claimant's home and £25,000 for additional care costs payable by the Claimant to the local authority for the care of her son.
Damages were paid by D2, who also agreed to pay the Claimant's costs of the case, which had been run under a Conditional Fee Agreement.
For the Claimant:
Counsel: James Weston, 7 Bedford Row
Solicitor: Sarah Towler, assisted by Nimmisha Aslam, Russell-Cooke LLP
Solicitors for the First Defendant: Plexus Law
Solicitors for the Second Defendant: Clyde & Co