Bristol City Council has denied liability for the death of a cyclist who drowned in the city’s floating harbour.
The family of Sean Philipps are claiming up to £2 million in damages from the local authority in a case currently being heard by the High Court, reports BBC News.
Mr Philipps, 40, fell off his bike and into the harbour as he rode to work along Princes Wharf in March 2013.
The action, brought by his partner Hayley Liddle and their two sons, seeks to establish among other things that signage was inadequate and that their should have been railings to prevent people from accidentally falling into the water.
Vincent Williams, representing Ms Liddle, said the location where the incident happened "presented an unusual combination of hazards", such as "slippery metalwork" as well as the "unguarded edge" of the wharf and "steep drop into the water or on to boats".
He accepted that there was no way of being certain if the cyclist had seen any warning signs, but added that such signage as existed was "not particularly good. It was small, it was very high up".
Mr Williams said that if "a combination of measures had been adopted, namely effective signage, railings, some kind of physical impediment or discouragement to cyclists to stop them ... that would in all probability have led to this accident not occurring."
James Burton, defending Bristol City Council, said: "Mr Phillips' death was and is a tragedy, but it was not the city council's fault.
"The law does not require occupiers to provide a risk-free environment, and it expects adults who choose to run obvious risks to take care for themselves."
He also said that Mr Philips would have seen signs warning cyclists to take an alternative route, and that there was “good reason” for there to be no guardrail along the harbour edge since the site is a working heritage wharf.
At a pre-trial hearing earlier this year, Judge Veronique Buehrlen QC ruled that the family would be able to rely on expert testimony from an accident reconstruction engineer.
The council had said that the witness was not qualified to provide evidence on issues such as risk assessment and signage, and that she had exceeded her brief by commenting on waterside safety features elsewhere.
However the judge rejected the council’s argument and said that allowing the evidence would “assist the court.”
In 2014, a coroner’s inquest into Mr Philips’ death was told that concerns regarding train and crane tracks at the wharf had been raised in a risk assessment daring from in 2003.
The case continues.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.