Suing for tripping on a kerb: Surely police officers know what they’re getting into when they sign up?

A police officer is suing a garage owner for an injury sustained while checking the premises on a 999 call
  • @nashriggins

Last August, petrol station owner Steve Jones phoned police after the alarm protecting his garage was triggered around midnight.

PC Kelly Jones responded to the call, and proceeded to search the premises. She then tripped on a six-inch kerb and fell, before the garage owner apologetically helped her up and she finished her search of the garage. Who would have thought that, eight months down the road, she’d be suing that garage owner for thousands of pounds because of her fall?

Indeed, Mr Jones received a letter from the officer’s solicitor over the weekend claiming that the petrol station was at fault for failing to ensure PC Jones was “reasonably safe”, because Mr Jones had made no attempt to light the area or warn her about the step. Are you kidding me?

On the one hand, perhaps PC Jones is correct in her assumption that the garage owner’s lack of warning was somewhat careless. Yet on the other hand, one can’t help but wonder if it’s police routine in Norfolk to just ‘feel your way about’ at night-time in a potentially dangerous situation without using a torch – a staple of any prepared police officer’s utility belt. After all, it’s up to PCs to deem when certain precautions will be necessary, and in this situation it appears as though the necessary precautions were overlooked. It’s hard to say whether that’s worth suing someone over.

Example: two years ago I seriously injured both of my wrists playing for my local American Football team, and as upset as I was about it, I didn’t sue anybody – know why? Because I knew when I was signing up for the job that it might get a little dangerous. Do police officers no longer know what they’re getting into when they sign on for the job?

In particular, the phrase ‘protect and serve’ springs to mind; therefore, I’d personally be thrilled at the end of a hard day’s police-work if the worst thing that had happened to me was a sore ankle I’d received from an embarrassing and self-inflicted tumble.

Mr Jones said the officer was not visibly hurt – and I assume she can’t have been that injured if she opted to finish the job without complaint. So one can only assume that the Norfolk Constabulary must be paying her pretty poorly if she’s willing to sue someone who’d asked for her help.

According to her solicitor’s letter, PC Jones injured her left leg and right wrist after tripping over, and later went to the West Suffolk Hospital. Lucky for her, we live in a nation with free health care – so her injuries would have been treated free of charge. So what the hell is she suing the owner of said kerb for? Bragging rights? It’s hard to see anything productive actually coming from this lawsuit, save for Mr Jones receiving a court-order to screw in a light bulb and pay out a few thousand pounds to a police officer just doing her job.

Many cops don’t seem to support PC Jones’ lawsuit, and Norfolk Police Federation has said that this case is ‘unprecedented’ – but also that every individual, police officer or no, is legally allowed to claim for compensation. They’re absolutely right. Yet PC Jones’ trivial case has subsequently provided the public with very real reason to fear phoning the police when they need help. Indeed, now Mr Jones will probably think twice about phoning emergency services the next time his burglar alarm goes off – but what if that day comes when he really does need protecting? Here’s hoping his poorly lit kerb can trip up the bad guys.