Retford: Damages claims dismissed after labourer sued a friend for £500k after ‘slicing off three fingers’

In Court
In Court

A labourer who sued a friend for more than £500,000 after slicing off three fingers in his wood chipper lacked common sense when he put his hand into the still running machine, a judge ruled.

A labourer who sued a friend for more than £500,000 after slicing off three fingers in his wood chipper lacked common sense when he put his hand into the still running machine, a judge ruled.

James Ford, 39, lost the middle fingers of his left hand in the horrific accident at James Silverstone’s home, in Nottinghamshire, in May 2011.

He had been helping Mr Silverstone clear away trees and was injured when he put his hand into the machine while it was still running.

He sued his friend, of Station Road, Sutton-cum-Lound, Retford, blaming him for the accident, despite the fact he was alone when he did it.

But Judge Nigel Wilkinson QC today ruled against him, saying Mr Ford, of St Leonards Drive, Chesterfield, was the author of his own misfortune.

“Ordinarily I’m sure that James Ford has, and displays, common sense,” said the judge.

But he added: “On May 11th, 2011, he was reckless in the extreme.”

The court heard Mr Ford and Mr Silverstone had worked together with the machine on an occasion before the accident.

Mr Ford claimed in the High Court trial that the chipper had blocked and, while unblocking it, his friend had not turned off the machine.

He said the key had been lost, making it difficult to start with an improvised key, and assumed that was why Mr Silverstone didn’t turn it off to unblock it.

On May 11th, Mr Ford was working alone at the property when it again blocked. He took off the funnel chute, turned the machine down and put his hand inside.

The blades sliced through his fingers, leaving him screaming in agony, he said in his evidence at the trial.

“I pulled my hand out and obviously that finger was off, that finger was off, and that one was hanging on,” he said.

Denying liability, Mr Silverstone told the court he had never intended Mr Ford to use the chipper and had not shown him how to use it negligently.

He said he was upset when he later learned that his friend was suing him.

“He took me off Facebook, never called, never texted, nothing,” he said. “It was the complete end of the relationship. He wouldn’t respond to any of my calls.”

After hearing the evidence in a week-long trial, Judge Wilkinson today rejected Mr Ford’s account, although he said he probably believed he was telling the truth.

The judge said he was convinced that the lost key - crucial to the case - was never, in fact, lost.

“James Silverstone is a tidy and somewhat meticulous man, who would not have spent four or five minutes trying to start the chipper with the wrong key,” he told the court.

“The basis of Mr Ford’s case that the unblocking of the chipper was carried out with the engine running to avoid the problem of restarting the engine with the wrong key is not made out on the evidence.”

“Accordingly, he cannot and does not make good his claim.”

“This case has been striking in its black and white, and absence of grey. The case has been lost on the facts.”

Mr Ford’s damages claim was dismissed.