Family of late British-Nigerian sues UK transport agency over negligence
The family of a British-Nigerian Bernard Ovu is suing UK’s London Underground Limited for negligence before the death of the IT expert.
Daily Mail reports that Bernard died at a Tube station where he laid undiscovered for more than six hours. The family is asking for more than £300,000 from the transport line.
The 35-year-old was trapped in a stairwell at Canning Town station for nearly an hour before tripping down concrete steps leading off the escape bridge and suffering a catastrophic head injury, his family said.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Ovu grew up in Nigeria before he moved to London in 2001 to live with his aunt and uncle.
He fell before 3am on January 22, 2017, after straying into a staff-only area on his way home from a late-night wedding in Rotherhithe, south-east London.
Bernard’s mother Roselyn Aigbibo Ovu, has now launched a £300,000 damages claim against London Underground Ltd and accused the company of failing to ensure safe staffing levels that led to his stay in the station was detected before it was too late.
London Underground Ltd, however, denied the blame and claimed Ovu was ‘intoxicated’ and ‘trespassing’ in a restricted area when he he died.
Their lawyers claim a toxicology report found that Ovu’s blood alcohol level was twice the driving limit, and also showed up traces of cannabis and cocaine.
His family suit said Ovu became ‘trapped’ in the staff-only area of the station after emergency gates through which he had passed were mistakenly closed, preventing him returning safely to the station platforms.
He ended up ‘trapped for a 50-minute period behind the emergency gates on a bitterly cold morning, before falling down stairs and suffering fatal injuries,’ the lawyers add.
Ovu was captured on CCTV at the top of the staircase leading down to the DLR platform at around 2.47am, and just two minutes later he clattered down the steps suffering fatal head injuries. His body was discovered at 8.45am – six hours after his fall.
Barrister Guy Watkins, for London Underground, said Mr Ovu was ‘heavily intoxicated’ when he left the wedding venue, and his blood alcohol level was twice the driving limit. Toxicology reports also showed up traces of cannabis and cocaine, the barrister stated.
Ovu had been ‘trespassing in a non-public area’ at the time and was “behaving erratically and was obviously unsteady on his feet,” Watkins claimed.
He had earlier tried to open the glass automatic doors on the Jubilee Line at Canada Water station and attempted to open a fire door on the platform, the barrister said.
Their lawyers also dispute that Ovu was owed any legal duty of care at the time, since he was trespassing in a restricted area. The case has now adjourned to return for trial at a later date.
The first stage of the trial will focus on the ‘preliminary issue’ of whether or not that duty of care existed.
An inquest in November 2017 heard that the sole member of staff on duty, on January 22, failed to check when Ovu set off an alarm by accidentally going through an emergency door. The inquest heard that safety procedures were ‘inconsistent and unclear’.
“The fall itself was due to Bernard’s physical state rather than environmental factors,” the inquest said. “Once the fall had occurred, it is unlikely that Bernard’s death could have been prevented.”
In a narrative verdict, a jury at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court found: ‘Processes that were known in the event of an emergency door trigger were not followed. Had this process been carried out, it is possible that Bernard may have been located earlier.’
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