On the 19 November 2016, 73 year old Keith Holmes was out walking and was on his way to meet his wife in Bingley when he passed The Myrtle Grove pub on Main Street, a JD Wetherspoon pub. As he passed the pub, an advertising board placed outside it collapsed, knocking him to the ground.
Mr Holmes died from his injuries the next day at Bradford Royal Infirmary. The incident was investigated by Bradford Council’s Environmental Health department.
Assistant Coroner Oliver Robert Longstaff listed a 5 day jury inquest to take place at Bradford Crown Court on the 18 December 2017.
During the inquest, the Court heard that Mr Holmes had a triple heart bypass in 2001 from which he had made a good recovery, and had also been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2014, which had affected the use of his upper limbs. When the advertisement board hit Mr Holmes, he was unable to put his arms out to protect himself. He hit his head on the floor which caused a fracture to the skull and an injury to the brain.
An eye witness gave evidence that she saw the board lift up as a result of bad wind that day, before collapsing and striking Mr Holmes. This caused him to fall to the floor and hit his head on the concrete pavement. CCTV also captured the moment when Mr Holmes was struck by the board.
Wetherspoon denied that the A-board was defective in any way or that it was windy on the day in question. It suggested that the board collapsed either due to a freak gust of wind, or that it was interfered with after it had been put on display. They stated that the accident happened through no fault of their own.
However, the jury heard that Wetherspoon had received an e-mail warning two days before the incident. This had advised that bad weather was expected that weekend, and street furniture was to be brought indoors. The e-mail was not acted upon or cascaded properly to staff members, contrary to the risk assessment purported to be in place at the time.
The jury also heard that the A-board was not designed in accordance with British Standards as it had not been manufactured to resist wind. Wetherspoon stated during the Inquest that they were unaware of this fact.
During the Inquest it came to light under cross-examination that the cleaner who had put the sign out that morning was not aware of the e-mail containing the weather warning. The Manager who had read the e-mail the previous day had remained inside the pub throughout the day, with no knowledge of the weather conditions outside.
The jury retired to consider their findings on day 2 of the inquest, delivering a verdict of Accidental Death. They concluded that Mr Holmes died from head injuries, sustained when an unstable advertising board fell on him outside the pub on 19 November 2016.
The family of Mr Holmes were represented by Gareth Naylor, Ison Harrison Partner and Head of Personal Injury.
Gareth Naylor said:
I admire the courage shown by the family of Mr Holmes, particularly his wife Sylvia. The past 12 months has been very distressing for the family, coming to terms with the tragic circumstances of his death, which could have been avoided. I am however pleased that the jury saw through the excuses given and reached the appropriate conclusion which has given the family some closure.
Wetherspoon apologised to the family and have reassured them that the A-boards will be taken out of use throughout their venues and will not be used again. Hopefully this will prevent any such incidents from happening again.
For further information please contact Gareth Naylor, Partner and Head of Personal Injury at Ison Harrison Solicitors, Duke House, 54 Wellington Street, Leeds LS1 2EE or on 0113 284 5020. You can also contact Gareth via firstname.lastname@example.org.