Air jump injury man ends legal fight

A MILITARY parachute instructor who claimed his career was ruined after an accident during a demonstration jump has won his five-year battle for compensation.

A MILITARY parachute instructor who claimed his career was ruined after an accident during a demonstration jump has won his five-year battle for compensation.

Howard France, 55, known as Joe, of Peake Avenue, Kirby Cross, had filed a High Court writ as a result of the injuries he suffered during a freefall parachute demonstration sponsored by NATO in Macedonia.

He claimed more than £50,000 damages after receiving serious injuries to his left leg when he hit a boulder on September 12, 1998.

Although he returned to work in February 1999 he was restricted to administrative duties and is unlikely ever to resume active duties involving parachute jumping.


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His case was due to be heard today in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court in London. However the two sides reached an agreement, with Mr France receiving an undisclosed settlement from the MoD.

Last night he declined to reveal the amount he had received but said: "The legal action has been discontinued and a settlement has been made to me by the MoD. I am pleased that it is over with as it has taken five years of my life, which I could have done without.

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"I am looking forward to the rest of my life without this hanging over me."

A MoD spokeswoman said she could not confirm details of individual cases.

"Where the department has a legal liability to provide compensation then it will do so," she added.

Mr France, who has now left the RAF is looking at a career in the field of expert witnesses,

He was left in considerable pain and underwent a bone graft and physiotherapy after the accident. There is also a significant chance he will require a total knee replacement when he reaches his 60s or 70s.

Through his solicitors, Mr France had claimed his accident was allegedly caused by the negligence and breach of statutory health and safety duties by the MoD. He was employed by the MoD as a parachute jumping instructor based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

In September 1998 he was ordered to act as team leader in a parachute demonstration in Macedonia attended by the country's president. The arena of the parachute jump was a place known as Pepelishte, signified by a fluorescent cross consisting of four nylon panels.

Mr France said at approximately 30 feet above the impact point he noticed there were large rocks on all the panels of the cross the size of house bricks and larger. He was then too low in the air to turn away or make a heading change safely in such strong windy conditions. He was thus left with no alternative but to try to avoid the rocks by foot placement.

As he landed on the impact point he was unable to avoid a large rock and sustained injuries.

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