Tree surgeon loses damages claim against National Trust over Morden Hall Park accident which left him in a wheelchair

Wimbledon Guardian: Morden Hall Park where the incident happened Morden Hall Park where the incident happened

A 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, from Chichester, 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."

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

In a statement after the hearing, a National Trust spokesperson said: "At the heart of this claim is a young man whose life has been changed beyond all recognition.

"We cannot imagine how difficult the past few years have been for Jamie, his family, friends and colleagues.

"This decision has confirmed the legal responsibility of occupiers across the country and we are grateful for the clarity that the court has given.

"The safety of our staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors is at the centre of everything we do."

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