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10 February 2014, 12:31
A tree surgeon paralysed after falling 50 feet from an ancient horse chestnut which he was trying to dismantle in south west London 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, of Carleton Road, Chichester, West Sussex, 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. They have radically altered his life and, in addition to the pain and suffering which he must have endured, they will have caused him very substantial financial loss. Anyone who learns of the case must have enormous sympathy for him.
"The NT - or its insurers - undoubtedly has a deeper pocket than he does. If the question before me was which of the two was best placed to shoulder these losses there could be only one answer. But that is not the question which I have had to address.
"The claimant is entitled to compensation from the NT if, and only if, the NT owed him a relevant duty of care. I have concluded that it did not.''