The family of a grandfather who died after falling down the stairs at a Wetherspoon pub during a stag do are suing the chain for more than £150,000.
Brian McAlister, 74, was making his way to the toilet on the upper floor of the Queen of Iceni pub in Norwich April 2016 when he lost his balance, slid down the bannister and toppled over it, falling nine feet down onto his head.
Brian, who also suffered a skull fracture, had to undergo gruelling rounds of surgery and was left wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
His daughter Pamela Suttle, blames the ‘unsafe’ layout of the staircase for allegedly making it easier for anyone who loses their footing on the stairs to go over the bannister.
An environmental health report published six months after Brian’s fall branded the staircase’s ‘unusual design’ as a safety risk.
It said: ‘A person who falls on the stairs at the Queen of Iceni is more likely to hit the handrail because it cuts across the direction in which a person falling is likely to travel.
‘The staircase was of such an unusual design that customers attending for the first time would not appreciate the increased risk when climbing the stairs.’
In papers filed at the High Court, the family’s barrister Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC said Brian’s accident was clearly visible on CCTV footage.
She said: ‘His fall and consequent injuries leading ultimately to his death were caused by the unsafe design of the staircase that was unsafe for a public house, where lawful visitors had to ascend the stairs to access the lavatory and where it was foreseeable that lawful visitors would also be drinking.
JD Wetherspoon claims Brian’s fall was brought on by a ‘freak set of circumstances’ unrelated to the staircase design, including his drunkenness.
The company’s barrister, Jonathan Payne, said he ‘used the staircase at a time when he was intoxicated to the extent that he was unsteady on his feet’ and paramedics had to give him ‘alcohol detoxification medication’.
It was alleged Mr McAlister may have fell backwards after suddenly fainting and spun round as he fell, sending him onto and then over the rail.
Mr Payne continued: ‘It is denied that the staircase had an unsafe design either as claimed or at all. The staircase complied with all relevant building regulations.
‘It appears from the evidence collated after this unfortunate incident that at the material time the deceased was engaged on a stag party and was intoxicated.
‘When the deceased ascended the staircase he appeared to be unstable and tripped up the first landing, albeit he regained his footing.
‘This was not a normal or foreseeable use of the staircase. It represented a freak set of circumstances.’
There have been no reported similar accidents among the ‘many millions of customers’ who have visited the pub in the 15 years since it started trading besides one individual who ‘chose to jump voluntarily from the staircase’, Mr Payne added.
A full trial of the claim is scheduled for a later date.
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