A drama teacher is suing one of Britain’s top all-girls schools for £50,000 after he broke his neck by falling 12ft off a ladder while adjusting theatre lights.
Harry Wilkinson suffered brain damage and fractures to his face, elbow and arm while setting up the drama studio at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in north London.
The 34-year-old, who was preparing the studio for an exam, is now suing the comprehensive for up to £50,000 in damages, blaming them for his accident in May 2016 because they did not train him how to use ladders.
But the all-girls school are fighting Mr Wilkinson’s claim, arguing that climbing a ladder safely is a matter of ‘common sense’.
According to documents filed at Central London County Court, Mr Wilkinson was at the top of the ladder adjusting light rigging when he fell.
The rig could not be lowered to work on at ground level and could only be adjusted by climbing the ladder, his lawyers argue.
Harry Wilkinson suffered brain damage and fractures to his face, elbow and arm while setting up the drama studio at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in north London
‘The task required the claimant to stand upon the ladder for a significant period of time,’ the claim papers state.
‘During the course of carrying out the task, the claimant would have to utilise both hands to attach and adjust the light rigging equipment. Whilst undertaking this task, he fell a significant distance from the ladder and hit the floor.’
Mr Wilkinson, of Muswell Hill, north London, sustained fractures to his neck, the bones around his eye and nose, his arm and elbow.
In a short hearing at the court earlier this year, it was revealed that the accident has also had a mental impact on him.
Judge Nicholas Parfitt was told that Mr Wilkinson now complains of concentration problems, fatigue and an increased sensitivity to heat.
His partner of 16 years told how, in the two years following the fall, he had become more withdrawn and irritable, less keen to socialise, and more apathetic.
The 34-year-old is now suing the comprehensive school (pictured) for up to £50,000, blaming them for his accident in May 2016 because they did not train him how to use ladders
Following the accident, the school was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School pleaded guilty in March 2017 in relation to a failure to provide mandatory height work training. The HSE said the school’s conduct ‘fell significantly below minimum legal standards’.
The school has since purchased a platform so staff can work safely at height and modified the light rigging so it can be worked from the ground using a pole.
According to its defence to the claim, the school admits breaching its duty to Mr Wilkinson, because its ladder training was online and optional.
However, they say Mr Wilkinson should have known how to climb and work from a ladder safely. School barrister Kam Jaspal said: ‘For the avoidance of any doubt, the defendant’s admitted breach of duty was not causative in circumstances where the claimant was undertaking a straightforward task which he had safely undertaken on previous occasions without incident.
‘In any event, it is denied that any mandatory training which the claimant should have received would have avoided the claimant’s accident.
‘Any training which the claimant did not receive but should have received would only have dealt with matters of which the claimant was already aware, by reason of common sense and experience.
‘In those circumstances, further training in respect of use of the ladder would have made no difference to the outcome and would not have avoided the claimant from falling in the manner which he did.’
The case reached court earlier this month for a preparatory hearing ahead of a full trial of the claim at a later date.