A Leamington woman who says she suffered a debilitating back injury while tobogganing at Seacliff Park is suing the municipality for $1 million.
Beth DeCou was tobogganing at Seacliff Park with her son and a friend on Feb. 2, 2009 when she struck an unidentified object under the snow, sending her and her sled flying meters into the air.
DeCou, 29, landed hard on her back, suffering a compression fracture of her L1 vertebra and has since endured severe lower back and coccyx pain.
I couldn’t move, said DeCou, who prior to the accident was employed as a house cleaner. I’ve had a lot of pain. I haven’t been back to work. I clean house for a living and I cant even clean my own house.
DeCou contacted the Windsor personal injury lawyer Greg Monforton, who took on the case.
Something wasn’t right, so on the one hand people don’t expect completely smooth surfaces, the law is clear that people have a right to expect a reasonably safe facility, said Monforton.
A lot of the users of this hill are children and young people. We believe the town of Leamington has a reasonable expectation to maintain it in a good level of repair and, alternatively, to provide to its intended users any particular defect that may cause them injury or harm.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Leamington corporate counsel and municipal clerk Brian Sweet said Seacliff Park is not a toboggan run at all and the matter has been passed on to the municipality’s insurance company.
In Essex County any place there’s a hill people will toboggan when there’s snow, said Sweet.
Monforton said the account of another witness at the hill indicated there was an a-frame barrier erected on a part of the hill to warn sledders of some sort of danger, and when DeCous accident occurred she was trying to avoid it.
There had been some indication on the part of the town that there was an area to be avoided, and Beth was engaged in attempting to avoid it as potentially dangerous and the toboggan became airborne, said Monforton.
Obviously toboggans don’t suddenly become airborne for no reason.
Monforton has placed ads in The Star seeking others who have had a similar experience at Seacliff Park.
The towns maintenance of this hill was simply inadequate. They knew that adults and children were using the hill regularly for tobogganing, said Monforton.
While the town cannot be expected to provide a perfectly safe environment they do have a legal obligation to provide an environment for tobogganing that is reasonably safe and, based on the information at our disposal, that hill was not reasonably safe for tobogganing.
DeCou spent five days in hospital and her son Ethan, 11, had to move in with his father for three months while she recuperated.
As a result of Beth’s injuries, she has experienced and will continue to experience pain and suffering and limitation of motion and function in the affected areas, the statement of claim says.
She has required medical and hospital treatment, including hospital confinement, surgery, X-rays, CT and MRI scans and prescribed medications.