Judgment Press Release
On 19 January 2015 the High Court in London ruled in favour of the family of Tomas Dusek who was killed in the course of his employment with StormHarbour Securities LLP in a helicopter crash in the Andes Mountains in Peru on 6 June 2012. He left behind his wife, Angela, and their two young children aged 5 and 8. The High Court found the employer, the London based financial firm, StormHarbour Securities LLP, to be responsible for the death of Tomas Dusek.
Mrs Dusek instructed James Healy-Pratt, Sarah Stewart and Peter Neenan of the Aviation Team at Stewarts to bring an action against her husband’s employer. The court heard that StormHarbour should never have permitted Tomas to be on the helicopter, which was unsuitable, flying a route that was inherently dangerous, in bad weather, and which was operated by a company reported to be in financial difficulties of a kind that jeopardised passenger safety.
Having heard all the evidence during the course of a two week trial, Mr Justice Hamblen found that “StormHarbour owed a duty to take reasonable care to safeguard [their employees] from the danger involved. In the factual circumstances of this case …that required StormHarbour to make at least some form of inquiry into the safety of the trip and carry out some form of risk assessment”. Had StormHarbour done so, it would not have permitted their employee to go on the trip.
Angela Dusek commented as follows:
“Tomas was a wonderful father and a loving and cherished husband. When he stepped on board the helicopter as part of his job, we expected and assumed it to be safe, not that he would be putting his life at risk and leaving us devastated by his death. We miss him every hour of every day. My husband’s life was thrown away by StormHarbour’s disregard for his safety. Today’s verdict will finally give our family peace that justice has been met for Tom. It is also with pride that I can tell my children that today’s decision will hopefully change the way that other employers approach business travel to remote regions of the world, and if that means that even just one less wife, child or parent suffers what we have had to suffer over the last two and a half years, then something positive has come out of this pain.”
Sarah Stewart Partner at Stewarts commented as follows:
“This important ruling makes it crystal clear that an employer is responsible for their employees on business trips with local air operators in remote parts of the world. The High Court has confirmed that the practices already adopted by safety conscious employers, should apply across all industries, not just to those operating in the mining and oil and gas sphere. It is now recognised law that an employer who does nothing to ensure the safety of their employee, engaged on their business abroad cannot bury their heads in the sand. They have a positive obligation to ensure that they are not sending their employees into danger.”
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