Half a ham sandwich may cost Texans $250,000

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IT'S BAD news for the banana skin then. A British businessman, taking his litigious cue from an American casualty department, has filed a law suit in the United States against a food retailer and the Texan oil city of Houston, after he slipped and broke his knee on a discarded ham sandwich.

Brian Philpott, from Ilford, east London, was injured shortly after landing at the city's Bush International Airport two years ago when the crushed remains of a ham sandwich brought him crashing to earth.

That humble sandwich could now net Mr Philpott up to - $250,000 (pounds 165,000) after he lodged a claim for damages earlier this week. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, seeks damages from the city, which owns and operates the airport, and the "unknown food outlet operator(s)" who left the sandwich on the uncarpeted floor.

"The condition of the sandwich indicated that it had been on the floor for a substantial period of time," the suit said. "In addition, there was a cleaning person adjacent to the scene of the fall who had not attempted to clean the floor or to post warnings of the dangerous conditions."

The lawyer who filed the case said yesterday that Mr Philpott sustained a compound fracture of the leg and the knee that required surgery.

"We've filed the lawsuit, which is now being served on the city of Houston," said Marc Whitehead of Houston. "At that point, we will begin the discovery process and we will receive a trial setting. After that, the case could settle. But it might not, and could end up going to trial."

Anthony Hall, a city attorney, said he could not comment on the lawsuit because the city had not yet been served.

"It sounds kind of humorous, but he [Mr Philpott] had a very serious injury," Mr Whitehead said. His client suffered at least three fractures to his knee and has incurred at least $80,000 in medical expenses and lost wages.

Papers filed in the lawsuit stated that Mr Philpott was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, and son, David, at the time of the mishap. Mrs Philpott is also listed as a plaintiff.