A man successfully sued a town council for nearly £33,000 – after he slipped on BERRIES while walking through a churchyard.
Robert Marsh, 61, lost his balance after skidding on the red yew tree berries which were scattered on a footpath.
Mr Marsh, a retired market trader, broke his femur and hip after he slipped and fell on the berries as he walked to an antiques fair being held in the church.
He sued his local council after the fall in November 2010 but was awarded an out of court settlement of £33,824.92.
Legals papers show he suffered a broken bone when he fell over outside the main entrance of St Peter’s Church in Bromyard, Herefordshire.
He sued Bromyard and Winslow Town Council whose insurers opted not to contest the claim.
The pay out to Mr Marsh, who has subsequently died of an unrelated illness, was revealed at a council meeting where compensation claims were being discussed.
Cllr Tony Burt said: “It does seem a lot of money that was paid out and I am disappointed that the council’s insurance company didn’t contest the matter in court.
“There is also anger and resentment at the fact that the church, which is wallowing in wealth, abdicates responsibility for its own grounds.
“Most people won’t realise that parish councils are not only obliged to do things like cut the grass and rebuild fallen walls, but also to pay for work on graveyards.
“It feels like we’re being taken for mugs. There is a lot of anger about it.”
Anni Holden, spokeswoman for Hereford Diocese said: “Churchyards are the responsibility of the church while it is possible to bury people.
“When it becomes full it is closed to burials and at that point the responsibility transfers to the local council.”
After the accident Mr Marsh spent two weeks in hospital and needed round-the-clock care when he got home.
Mr Marsh, who had three grown-up children and five grandchildren, died of multiple organ failure on February 10 this year.
Residents and taxpayers blasted the pay out, branding it a symptom of the “blame culture” by people who “need to be responsible for themselves.”
Ros Bissell, who runs a garden and nursery near Bromyard fumed: “How far do you go?
“If it rains and the pavement is a bit slippery and someone falls over what do you do?
“I open my garden to the public and of course, I’ll advise them to wear sensible shoes, but it is a garden and you could fall over.
“If I claimed for every time I’ve fallen in my garden I would be suing myself all the time.
“It is just this blame culture – people need to be responsible for themselves.”
Mr Marsh’s compensation was paid by the council’s insurers but the rise in the premium is likely to be passed onto taxpayers.
Jonathan Isaby, spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, added: “At the end of the day accidents happen.
“Berries also fall off trees. The council should allow a bit more common sense to prevail rather than reacting to nature in such an over-the-top way.
“In recent years there has been a worrying rise in the compensation culture and taxpayers should certainly not be footing the bill for cases where a bit of common sense would have avoided an accident.”
Mr Marsh’s widow Lorraine, 58, his wife of 38 years,defended the payout.
She said: “Robert was never the same after he fell over outside the church.
“It happened in the morning, he was walking to the church for an antique’s valuation day and was going through the gate when he lost his footing and fell over on the berries.
“He was taken to A&E and had to have his clothes cut off him, his clothes were soaked through with berry juice, they were everywhere.
“Robert needed an operation on his hip and I had to give up work as a home carer to look after him when he was discharged.
“The accident had a profound impact on my family.
“Robert went from a gregarious, active and happy man to someone who was in constant pain and needed my help to do everything.
“He couldn’t even go to the toilet by himself.
“I strongly believe his death was a result of the accident because his body simply gave up.
“We were fully within our rights to sue the council and they paid up without contesting it because they knew they had a duty of care to protect people going into the church.
“My husband was not a chancer or someone wanting to make a fast buck, he was injured and it destroyed his life.”