The family of an elderly lady who died from a heart attack a day after tripping over a vacuum cleaner cable strewn across her living room floor by a heating engineer has finally received compensation two years after her death. 

Laura Blanche Clark, from Penshaw, had turned 86 just two days before the accident in April 2009 where she tripped on the cable, fracturing her hip and wrist. She was rushed to hospital where the next day she suffered a fatal heart attack.

The coroner at the inquest into her death said her heart attack had been caused by pre existing medical problems which had been exacerbated by the fall, which could have been prevented.

Cable was difficult to see against dark carpet

Despite her age the grandmother was relatively fit and healthy and lived at home alone in Penshaw in a bungalow rented from Gentoo Group. Her daughter, Wendy Hilton, helped her out every day and she had a carer in the mornings. 

On the day of the accident a heating engineer working for Gentoo Group’s subcontractors Whitfield Builders turned up unannounced at 8am to service her gas fire. 

He had plugged in the vacuum cleaner into a kitchen socket and was using it in front of the fire place in the living room. It’s cable ran across the natural walkway to the living room. 

Mrs Clark had a dark patterned carpet and the black cable was difficult to see. As she made her way to the living room she tripped on it and fell. She was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital where she was set to undergo surgery to fix her hip but she suffered a heart attack the following day.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Mrs Hilton contacted Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation, an apology and changes to procedures. 

Mrs Hilton wanted Whitfield Engineers to rethink their health and safety policies to make sure no-one else was injured in the future.

Thompsons argued that Mrs Clark’s death was ultimately caused by Whitfield Engineers’ negligence. It said the firm had failed to carry out a risk assessment or warn Mrs Clark about the vacuum cleaner’s cable.

Engineers admitted responsibility for accident

Two years after the fall Whitfield Engineers admitted it was negligent and agreed to settle the claim out of court for £5,000.

Mrs Hilton said: “My mother was fit for her age and reasonably mobile. She had a very active mind and enjoyed a chat with friends and neighbours. If it hadn’t been for this accident I am convinced she would have had many more years to live. Unfortunately she died just nine days before her first great-granddaughter Grace was born. She had been tremendously excited about her arrival.”

“We are pleased we’ve finally received recognition from Whitfield Engineers that they were responsible for this accident. I was determined to gain justice and hope that now Whitfield Engineers makes sure that its workers are trained to take more care when in people’s homes.”

David Robinson from Thompsons Solicitors added: “For Mrs Clark’s family this claim was never about financial compensation. They wanted Whitfield Engineers to recognise that their employee had come into Mrs Clark’s home and put her at risk of injury. We hope that this case has made Whitfield Engineers take a long hard look at their health and safety policies to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.”