Pensioner wins payout for lost independence

Jean Whitters, 88
Jean Whitters, 88
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Until the summer of 2012, Jean Whitters was the picture of a contented pensioner, tending her garden and enjoying walking to the local shops.

However today the 88-year-old is still coming to terms with the loss of her independence after suffering serious injuries from tripping on an uneven pavement near to her home in Yorkshire – which had recently been given a £1m upgrade.

Grandmother-of-three Jean Whitters fell flat on her face while crossing Yeadon High Street, leaving her with two black eyes as well as torn muscles and tendons in her shoulder.

Nineteen months on from the fall in August 2012, she says her injuries have prevented her from doing many tasks around the house she had done with ease before.

When the former publican and supermarket cashier reported the incident to Leeds City Council, they denied liability for the condition of the section of road, which had been part of a £1m regeneration project two years previously.

After concerns raised by local councillors that it was in an “appalling condition”, the authority agreed to resurface the road, putting in a special membrane to strengthen it and stop it deteriorating again.

Mrs Whitters, who has lived in Yeadon for 20 years, has now accepted a £14,000 settlement after the council admitted it had failed adequately to maintain the crossing point.

She said: “They knew their roads were in an appalling condition but yet they tried to deny it. I think they thought that I was a dotty old pensioner who would go away, but they were wrong.

“I was determined to make them realise how much damage they had done to me because they had not maintained that road properly.

“The injury has robbed me of my independence. It’s stopped me from doing all the things I used to do, all the little things like cleaning the house, tending to my garden. I’ve had to get a gardener and cleaner in.

“I can’t lift things into the cupboards, I struggle to put my jacket on because of the pain in my shoulder.

“All these pains get you down when you’re used to being so active.”

Mrs Whitters was using the designated crossing point on Yeadon High Street, opposite the library, on August 4, 2012, when she lost her footing on some uneven brickwork.

Leeds City Council initially denied any liability, but Mrs Whitters’ legal team argued the inspections were “defective” because “clearly dangerous defects were not noted by the inspectors”.

Her solicitor Chris Baxendale, of Slater & Gordon, said: “This was an entirely avoidable accident which has deprived Mrs Whitters of a great deal of her independence.

“All Leeds City Council had to do was carry out proper inspections and repair work to ensure that the road was safe, but they did not.”

While investigating the claim, his team found the council had received 27 calls and 15 letters complaining about Yeadon High Street in the 12 months up to Mrs Whitters’ accident.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “We can only apologise to Mrs Whitters for this unfortunate incident. Our roads are inspected regularly and in fact this section of road was inspected less than two weeks before this Mrs Whitters’ fall.

“Unfortunately the legal process can be very long, and a settlement within 19 months, as in this case, is not unusual.

“Regretfully we do receive many claims for compensation which are not legitimate, therefore all claims we receive have to be scrutinised and investigated thoroughly before any tax payers’ money is spent.”