Shoosmiths acted on behalf of the executors of 91-year-old Ivy Spriggs, who died in a blaze at Newgrange Care Home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, on 8 April 2017.
33 elderly residents were rescued from the fire, three of whom needed hospital treatment for burns and the effects of breathing in smoke, but unfortunately two women (Ivy Spriggs and Daphne Holloway) were unable to get out of their rooms. Ivy was eventually found in her bed, dead from fourth degree burns.
Staff left residents in burning building
On the day of the fire, which was caused by an electrical fault that spread to the roof, the emergency services were called by a member of the care home staff and told that they would evacuate. True to their word, staff did indeed evacuate the building, but only in the sense that they themselves fled, leaving the residents, many of whom suffered from dementia or had mobility issues, inside while the fire continued to take hold.
In May 2019, during criminal proceedings at St Albans Crown Court, Newgrange of Cheshunt Ltd, which ran the home, pleaded guilty to five offences contrary to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay some prosecution costs.
Criminal trial finds failures in fire evacuation procedures
The criminal trial also heard that the staff’s response of evacuating themselves only and leaving the ‘rescue ‘of the residents in their care to the emergency services was one they had been trained to follow by the home’s management. While the fire service did arrive at the scene within a short period of time, speaking after the sentencing at St Albans Crown Court, Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer Darryl Keen commented:
“If enough competent staff had been present and properly trained to carry out long-established and recognised guidance on evacuations in a care home, I am sure that a full evacuation would have been started long before our arrival.”
Asking Shoosmiths for advice
The executors of Ivy’s estate, her daughters Carol Ann Murray and Maxine Spriggs instructed Sarah Cunliffe, a lawyer specialising in cases of care home neglect and abuse who was successful in settling the claim at almost three times the offer first made by the Defendant.
“I am pleased that we obtained almost three times the initial offer on the table for Carol and Maxine, although of course no amount of money will ever truly compensate for the loss of a loved one, especially in tragic circumstances such as these. But finance is rarely the motivation behind these claims. Getting answers and getting some sense of “justice done” is what drives clients in these cases. The award does at least help in reimbursing the expenses incurred by Carol and Maxine and goes some way to recognising the pain of suffering Ivy must have endured.”