A blind Irish athlete and adventurer who was left paralysed after falling from a second-floor window whilst staying with friends is suing them for millions of pounds in damages.
Mark Pollock who lives in Dublin - the first blind man to race to the South Pole - is suing Enda and Madeline Cahill over his 25-foot fall onto the patio of their home in Henley five years ago.
The 39-year-old suffered a “catastrophic spinal cord injury” when he fell, his barrister Christopher Wilson-Smith QC told the High Court in Britain on Wednesday.
The disaster struck in July 2010, just weeks before he was due to marry his fiancé - solicitor Simone George.
He fractured his skull, had bleeding on the brain and was left wheelchair-dependent after breaking his back in three places.
Mr Pollock was staying with the Cahills, who were good friends of his, during the Henley Royal Regatta, the court heard.
On July 2nd, 2010, he returned home from the exclusive Leander rowing club and went up to bed alone for an early night.
He told the court he doesn’t “remember anything” about falling out of the window.
But he said the most likely explanation was that he “was on his way to the bathroom and was disorientated and tripped out the window”.
Mr Wilson-Smith claimed the Cahills had disregarded a “reasonably foreseeable risk” of their blind friend being seriously injured.
They should have made sure the window remained closed or at least warned Mr Pollock it was open, said the QC.
Although it was uncertain who opened it, the barrister argued that, ‘on the balance of probability’, it was one of the Cahills.
"There was no justification whatsoever to neglect such a risk," he told Mr Justice William Davis.
Mr Wilson-Smith claimed Mrs Cahill had considered the danger of leaving the window open - but decided not to close it because it was a warm evening.
She “elected to do nothing” which was a ‘disastrous misjudgement’, he said.
However the Cahills, of Woodview, Remenham Lane, Henley, deny the accident was their fault.
She told the court she was ‘worried’ about Mr Pollock using the stairs up to his second-floor room, 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”.
But she agreed that, “with hindsight”, she wished she had closed the window.
The tearful 42-year-old added: “I was constantly going through in my mind if there was anything I could have done to prevent the accident.”
Mr Pollock, originally from Co Down and also a well-known motivational speaker, had stayed with the couple before.
He had been offered a bed in the ground-floor conservatory but, before the accident, had opted to share a second floor room with another guest.
Mr Pollock lost his sight in 1998 at the age of 22 but went on to win bronze and silver medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
He has also taken part in extreme marathons and Ironman events and, not long before the accident, in June 2010, he completed the 1,400 mile Round Ireland Yacht Race.
Since the fall, Mr Pollock has also helped pioneer use of ‘robotic legs’.
Stephen Grime QC, for the Cahills, questioned him on whether he was ‘very tired’ after the recent yacht race.
But he said he had been back on dry land for 10 days or more before the accident and was fully alert.
The QC put it to him that he had told friends after the accident that he believed ‘he may have been climbing out of a hatch on board a yacht’ as he went through the window.
Mr Pollock denied this, saying: “I have heard people speculate in all sorts of ways about how I ended up like this.”
Mr Grime told him that, prior to his ‘terrible accident”, he would never have expected the Cahills to make sure a window in a room he slept in was kept shut.
But Mr Pollock, from Ranelagh, Dublin, insisted that if the open window had “posed a risk to me” he would have done so.
He said nobody had mentioned the window to him when showing him the room.
But Mr Cahill (47) told the court he remembered describing “where the beds were in relation to the window”.
The High Court hearing continues.
- This article was amended on September 6th 2018