A blind athlete left paralysed when he fell 25ft from a bedroom window while staying with friends has won his High Court battle for damages.
Mark Pollock, 39, suffered spinal and brain injuries in the July 2010 accident at the Henley on Thames home of Enda and Madeline Cahill, where he was staying for the Royal Regatta.
Mr Pollock, who is from Dublin, restricted his damages claim to the limit of his friends’ insurance policy - £2 million - so that they would not have to pay anything personally, which meant it was a fraction of its full value.
The issue of damages will now be considered at a later date by Mr Justice William Davis after his ruling today on the question of liability.
During the case in London, the judge heard that, despite becoming blind in 1998, Mr Pollock went on to compete in ultra endurance races across deserts, mountains and the polar ice caps and was the first blind person to race to the South Pole.
He also won silver and bronze medals for rowing at the Commonwealth Games, completed the Round Ireland yacht race and set up a successful motivational speaking business.
Mr Pollock, who is now paralysed from the waist down, told the court that the most likely explanation for the accident was that he was on the way to the bathroom when he became disorientated and fell out of the open window.
In his ruling, the judge said that Mr Pollock’s athletic achievements would have been notable for someone without any disability but, given his blindness, they were remarkable.
“The events of 2010 have meant that Mr Pollock no longer can undertake the athletic challenges of which he was capable before his fall. Having overcome one disability, he now has had to come to terms with another.”
The judge said he was satisfied that Mrs Cahill had opened the window in the bedroom used by Mr Pollock and that he fell through it as he was trying to make his way to the bathroom having just woken.
“He had lost his internal compass. When he got to the window he believed that he was at the door. He had forward momentum because of that belief.”
The judge added that he was satisfied that the Cahills failed to discharge the common duty of care they owed as occupiers.
“The open window was a real risk to Mr Pollock. They created that risk. They ought to have appreciated the risk and taken steps to prevent it by keeping the window closed or by warning Mr Pollock about it with particular reference as to the extent of the drop from the window.”
Solicitor Ben Rogers, from Stewarts Law, said later that the damages recovered by Mr Pollock, who was not in court for the ruling, were essential to assist him with his additional care and rehabilitation.
“Mark Pollock is a remarkable man and has conducted himself with the utmost integrity in relation to this claim and in relation to his paralysis.
“Coupled with his pre-accident blindness, the incident has left him with enormous challenges in his life.”
He said that Mr Pollock was now exploring the frontiers of spinal injury recovery as a test pilot of robotic legs combined with innovative spinal electrical stimulation and pharmacology.
Through the Mark Pollock Trust, he was on a mission to find and connect people around the world to fast-track a cure for paralysis.