The family of a drunken wedding guest who died after falling down the stairs at a London tube station have lost their £300,000 bid for damages after a judge found he had unlawful ‘intrusion’ when he died.
Bernard Ovu’s body was discovered on January 22, 2017 under a concrete staircase at the bottom of a fire escape at Canning Town subway station.
The 35-year-old suffered a ‘catastrophic head injury’ and remained undetected for more than six hours after accidentally breaking into the staff area of the station shortly after 3am on his way home from a wedding in Rotherhithe, South East London. .
Today, Judge Victoria McCloud ruled that the safety of unconstrained passengers at train stations is not the legal responsibility of station managers.
Mr Ovu’s mother, Roselyn Aigbibo Ovu, launched £300,000 in damages against London Underground Ltd.
But London Underground denied negligence, saying Mr Ovu had risked disaster through his own drunken and erratic behavior while entering a restricted area.
The case reached court where Judge McCloud dismissed the family’s case and supported London Underground’s claim that Mr Ovu was an unlawful offender at the time of his fall for having strayed from the station’s public areas.
Bernard Ovu, 35, was trapped in a stairwell at Canning Town station for nearly an hour before tripping over a concrete staircase leading off the escape bridge and sustaining a ‘catastrophic head injury’ on January 22, 2017.
In a Supreme Court ruling affecting train users and operators, the judge ruled that no damages could be recovered due to Mr Ovu’s intruder status and because he was not owed a ‘duty of care’.
She called the case “important – because of the potential implications for users of the Tube and for the London Underground Railway itself.”
Ovu’s family told the court he had become “trapped” in the staff area after the emergency gates he had passed through were accidentally closed, preventing him from safely returning to the station’s subway platforms.
The station supervisor closed the entrance gate assuming that Mr Ovu had already returned to the Jubilee Line platform.
Pictured: Canning Town subway station entrance
Instead, he wandered about in a disoriented and cold numb state until he tumbled down two flights of stairs leading to the Dockland Light Railway platform.
His body, with his coat covered in ice, was discovered at 8:45 am – about six hours after his fall.
“He appeared to have died of a head injury,” Judge Victoria McCloud told the London High Court. “Although the frost might not have helped.”
“Mr. Ovu was an offender at the time of his death,” she ruled, adding: “He was not a lawful visitor because he exceeded the well-stated limits of his consent, and there is nothing about the agreed-upon facts to indicate that the signage or barriers were such that he could not be aware of the limitations of his permit.’
The IT expert fell just before 3 a.m. after accidentally wandering into a staff room on his way home from a late wedding in Rotherhithe, south-east London
Judge McCloud acknowledged the shock and disappointment her decision would cause to Mr. Ovu’s family.
But she said she hoped they would take “comfort” with safety recommendations from the coroner who previously handled the inquest into his death.
Those changes mean that London Underground staff will now ‘always either check the area, check the CCTV replay or contact the police if they are working alone and feel unsafe checking the exit structure themselves’.
During the trial, Judge McCloud had “expressed concern” for the lone station supervisor e’ who had to work alone at night and was expected to check the exit structure alone, and with the potential of being locked out and forced to leave the station. into the street and leave the station unattended’.
The court heard that Mr Ovu had made an ‘irregular’ journey from Canada Water via Stratford after attending a wedding, and was believed to have attempted to return to his home in Kingston.
At one point he stopped at Stratford station, where he “wandered and went to an unauthorized part of the station” for about 50 minutes, before continuing to his final destination in Canning Town.
Mr Ovu’s mother, Roselyn Aigbibo Ovu, launched £300,000 in damages against London Underground Ltd, for negligence
“It was agreed that his conduct was consistent with drunkenness,” Judge McCloud said.
‘A post-mortem toxicology report found a significant amount of alcohol in the blood consistent with intoxication.
“When he reached Canning Town, Mr. Ovu eventually wandered outside the permitted areas, and although he could have left the street through the station emergency doors, he didn’t.
“We’ve seen that he did indeed reach that exit gate, but chose not to use it, if indeed his state of inebriation really made him realize what it was—which we can’t know.”