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HAMPSHIRE TO BLAME FOR PC'S OFFICE CHAIR ACCIDENT

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A Hampshire ex-policeman who blames the end of his career on back injuries suffered when a wheeled typists' chair s...
A Hampshire ex-policeman who blames the end of his career on back injuries suffered when a wheeled typists' chair slid away from under him, won the first round of his high court compensation fight.

Mr Justice French paved the way for 34-year-old Michael Wardle to seek 'substantial' compensation from Hampshire CC when he ruled last week that the local authority had been entirely to blame for the accident at Gosport Police Station in August 1987.

Mr Wardle had been on duty in the police station's control room helping to co-ordinate the apprehension of a suspect when the chair slid away across the slippery linoleum floor just as he was about to sit on it.

His counsel, Frank Burton, said he had suffered a severe injury to the base of his spine on falling to the floor.

The injury was initially treated with bed rest and painkillers but more serious symptoms developed two months later requiring spinal surgery.

He was eventually able to return to work but a number of assaults on him during the course of his police duties served to exacerbate his back problems and he was retired from the force on medical grounds in 1990.

'He still suffers continuous low backache radiating into his leg to this day,' Mr Burton said.

Although he has not worked since retiring from the force, Mr Wardle hopes to become a qualified radiographer when he completes a degree course at Portsmouth University next year.

The county council had denied negligence.

But Mr Justice French said he was 'satisfied' that the local authority was entirely responsible for the accident and also in breach of its statutory duties under the 1963 Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act.

'It is perfectly obvious that when a chair with wheels or casters is placed on a hard surface it will take very little impulse to cause the chair to move away from its pre-existing position.

'It is equally obvious that the risk is capable of being mitigated by the use of casters or wheels which do not run freely on a hard surface or by the laying of a carpet on the floor to inhibit the movement.' He said the council should have put on notice of the risks by 'a similar accident' three months prior to Mr Wardle's mishap when a WPC was injured.

The judge ordered Hampshire CC to pay Mr Wardle's legal costs of the action to date.

If a settlement is not reached beforehand, there will now have to be a further court hearing at which Mr Wardle's damages will be assessed.

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