Blind Irish athlete and adventurer Mark Pollack is suing his friends after a fall from a second-floor window in their home left him paralyzed.
The 39-year-old fell 25 feet onto the patio of Enda and Madeline Cahill’s home in Henly in Berkshire in July 2010, just weeks before he was to marry his fiancé - solicitor Simone George. Earlier in the case, Pollock told the court he was probably "on his way to the bathroom and was disorientated and tripped out the window,” the BBC reports. He is blaming the Cahills for leaving the window open.
The athlete suffered a “catastrophic spinal cord injury” when he fell, his lawyer Christopher Wilson-Smith QC told the High Court in Britain on Wednesday. Pollock, who became the first blind person to trek to the South Pole in 2009, is now confined to a wheelchair and dependent on care.
Pollock, who is originally from Holywood Co Down, lost his sight in 1998 at the age of 22, but went on to win bronze and silver medals for rowing at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He has also taken part in extreme marathons and Ironman events. Ten days before the accident, he completed the 1,400-mile Round Ireland Yacht Race.
Pollock was staying with the Cahills during the Henley Royal Regatta and on July 2, 2010, he returned home from the Leander rowing club and went up to bed alone.
He told the court he doesn’t “remember anything “ about the accident but the most likely explanation was that he “was on his way to the bathroom and was disorientated and tripped out the window.”
Wilson-Smith claimed the Cahills had disregarded a “reasonably foreseeable risk” of their blind friend being seriously injured, The Irish Times reports.
The Cahills, of Woodview, Remenham Lane, Henley, deny the accident was their fault.
"We say this was a freak combination of circumstances which no single person who was involved at or around the time would have foreseen and for which no one can or should be blamed,” said Stephen Grime QC, the Cahills’ lawyer.
"To reach a contrary conclusion does require an extensive use of hindsight.”
Madeline Cahill told the court she was “worried” about her friend using the stairs but had not thought the window posed any risk to him.
“If it had crossed my mind for an instant that there was any danger or risk, I would have insisted Mark stay in the conservatory”, she told the court.
“I wouldn’t put any guest of mine in a position where they could have an accident.”
The 42-year-old said that “with hindsight," she wished she had closed the window.
“I was constantly going through in my mind if there was anything I could have done to prevent the accident.”
Pollock had been offered a bed in the ground-floor conservatory, but had opted to share a second floor room with another guest.
Martin Murphy, who shared the bedroom with the Commonwealth Games medal winner, told the court: “We were two men sharing a room in hot weather, so I am sure we would have opened the window.”
Grime described it as an “ordinary room and ordinary window.”
"There is nothing in the slightest degree abnormal about the window or its dimensions or its situated position in the room," he added, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
"Why should either Mr Pollock before the accident, or Madeline Cahill or Enda Cahill, have thought the window was a risk to him?"
Grime queried Pollock’s theory that he was disoriented, slipped and fell out of the window. He suggested other possibilities that could have led to the accident, such as sleepwalking or that Pollock had leaned out of the window.
Neither of those would involve any negligence by the Cahills, he told the judge.
“I have heard people speculate in all sorts of ways about how I ended up like this,” said Pollock.
He claims no one mentioned the window to him when showing him the room.
Pollock's lawyer told the court an "open window at that height, without warning, constituted a trap.”
"He was snared by that trap and he sustained his injuries," he said.
"This is a very simple case. It is common ground that the defendants owed Mr Pollock a duty of care."
"Should a blind man have been left in a room with the windows of the property open when he had not been walked through the room, when he had not been given any warning?" he asked.
However, Enda Cahill, 47, said he remembered describing “where the beds were in relation to the window.”
The court heard that Pollock is limiting his claim to the amount that could be recovered under the Cahills' household insurance, with the intention of ensuring the couple do not have to pay out themselves.
The judge has reserved his decision on the case until a later date.