Council denies liability after fall on eroded Aylesbury path leaves woman with 'life-changing' injuries
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Bucks Council says it is not liable for the fall on an eroded Aylesbury path which led to a woman breaking her collar bone.
The grandmother fell on a damaged path in Ellen Road outside the Mandeville School on Tuesday, June 8, and hasn't worked since.
The council inspects the path once a month.
The pathway was checked on May 10, almost exactly a month before Jacqualin Jeffs fell. In May's report council officials stated: There was 'no actionable defect in the highway' at the location where Jacqualin fell down.
In the official report filed to Jacqualin the senior claims officer stated: "Section 58 of the Highways Act provides a complete defence to the council as the Highway Authority if it can prove that it has taken reasonable care in all the circumstances to properly maintain the highway."
The council decision was further explained in the report submitted to Jacqualin. It read: "It is quite possible for a defect to develop or deteriorate quickly, especially during periods of adverse weather. Unless we are notified about these defects, or they are present at the time of our regular inspections, we cannot be held liable for accidents which occur as a result.
"The council has a reasonable system of safety inspections and maintenance for this road and is therefore able to establish a complete defence under Section 58 of the Highways Act. In this respect, we must inform you that the council are not liable in this case."
Jacqualin was unable to climb back to her feet after the fall. She needed help from two men who were cutting the grass for Aylesbury Vale Council to prop her up and attempt to make her comfortable before medical attention could arrive.
It took 10 days for Jacqualin to receive the surgery she needed to repair her right shoulder.
Her daughter Stacey said: "She lives alone, as we have all grown up and moved out. We have our own lives and children to look after now.
"For that 10-day period, my mum was taking paracetamol for pain relief as she is unable to take anything stronger. Between my sister and I, we had to help my mum to the toilet, shower her, dress her, and cook for her, just to meet her basic needs as she was incapacitated.
"My mum had major surgery on Friday, June 18. The procedure was supposed to be two to three hours, however it actually took between five to six hours due to the amount of damage caused. Since the operation, again, my sister and I were having to wash, dress, cook for and care for my mum. She has sustained life changing injuries."
Jacqualin works as a cashier at ASDA supermarket in Aylesbury, which Stacey said had been very supportive since her mother's fall.
Jacqualin remains on sick pay and will move on to statutory sick pay once 12 weeks have passed. It remains unclear when she will be able to return to work.
Stacey added: "She is unable to wash and dress herself, she is unable to wear underwear or trousers as she is unable to pull them up, she has to wear a maxi dress all the time.
"She is now able to use the toilet, however she is unable to wipe herself properly. Wycombe Hospital did supply her with an attachment for the toilet seat so it is higher than average to stop her from bending down.
"She isn't able to cook. She can't lift pans, or even pull the oven door open. She isn't able to use the microwave because when she bends down or leans forward, the shoulder replacement is very painful and could dislocate.
"She isn't able to wash up, or load and unload her dishwasher, she isn't able to lay in bed to sleep, so she has to sleep sitting up on the sofa. My mum has been placing her grocery order online and having it either delivered at a time when my sister or I can be there to put the shopping away. Or organising a click and collect order - again it has to be at a time that my sister or I can collect it for her."
Councillor John Chilver said: “We are very sorry indeed to hear about this accident. Please be assured that the area is indeed inspected regularly but sometimes surfaces can become damaged very quickly without the council knowing and outside of the regular inspection programme.
"Legal liability for hazards that has occurred outside of our own inspection programme does not fall to the council.”