City denies responsibility in artist’s injury

The Telegram
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By Mackenzie Scrimshaw
Special to The Telegram
The City of St. John’s has denied an injury claim filed by artist Rod Hand, whose upper left arm has been in a cast for more than six weeks.

Artist Rod Hand holds a painting he can’t complete due to a broken arm he says he suffered when he slipped on an icy St. John’s street.

The painter received a letter from senior claims officer Scott Hounsell on March 19, indicating the city had assessed the situation — and not in Hand’s favour.  

“Based on the information provided, we see no evidence that would lead to a conclusion of liability on the part of the city and we can find no basis on which the city can accept responsibility,” states part of the letter, a copy of which The Telegram obtained from Hand.

Hand says on the night of Feb. 15, he and his girlfriend, Chrissy, were leaving a Vince Neil concert at Mile One Centre to meet Chrissy’s son, who was going to drive the couple home. It was between 10:30 and 11 p.m. when Hand went to cross Queen Street, near the corner of Queen and New Gower streets, beside Christophers Cafe and Catering.

“As soon as I stepped off the curb ... (I) stepped on the road, slipped on the ice and I just fell down.”

Hand says he needed the help of three men standing nearby to get to his feet. That’s when he realized he was hurt. He went to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, where he spent six hours having a cast fitted, he says. The cast extends from below Hand’s elbow, up over his shoulder. He broke his humerus, the upper arm bone.

Ideally, Hand, who, in addition to his painting, works as a head framer at The Artist’s Workshop in

St. John’s, would have liked the city to compensate him for almost three months of lost income.

He declined to estimate what this time off work has cost him, but did say he’s currently receiving employment insurance.

Additionally, Hand expects to need physiotherapy after his third cast is removed — another cost he had hoped the city would cover.

“I’m not looking to get rich out of this thing,” he said. “I just want to get back to where I was before this happened to me.”

Hand says he will be in a cast for another eight weeks. For the time being, he’s spending his days watching TV, “bored out of my mind.”

“There’s not much I can do right now.”

This includes caring for his children. Hand has a five-month-old son, and with a broken humerus, says, “I can’t pick him up, can’t play with him.”

He says the injury has also interfered with his ability to parent his two daughters, ages eight and 16.

Even menial tasks have become difficult, if not impossible.

“Just taking a top off a bottle of Pepsi, I can’t do that,” said Hand.

Painting is out of the question, although he is eager to finish two pieces by September, in order to sell their prints before Christmas.

Similar to Hand’s other work, these incomplete paintings portray images that will resonate with local people — of mummers, for example.

With weeks of recovery remaining, Hand doubts he will be able to finish them on time.

The Telegram asked the city under which circumstances it would be accountable for an injury on city property. Communications and public relations officer Shelley Pardy responded via email on April 3.

“Each case is investigated on its own merits and the city is only liable when we are negligent,” she wrote.

The city has told The Telegram it has had “two open claims that relate to city sidewalks” for the period from November 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014, but would not elaborate.

“Access St. John’s tracks all sidewalk-related calls generally, so calls on a variety of sidewalk issues —  including snow and ice, vehicles blocking sidewalks, damaged sidewalks and so on — are all recorded in one category,” Jennifer Mills wrote in an email to The Telegram March 12, in response to a query.

Hounsell, the city’s senior claims officer, did not return multiple phone calls and emails from the Telegram.

Organizations: The Telegram, Health Sciences Centre

Geographic location: Queen Street

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Recent comments

  • rod hand
    April 08, 2014 - 11:04

    the story was originally made so that awareness is out there that our streets need attention... I was just telling mine... sorry if you don't agree

  • Yo mama
    April 05, 2014 - 16:56

    Not even worth commenting on....I'm at a loss for words anyways, this is a prime example of what our country is becoming. The old schoolers are "rolling over in their graves".

  • Sheila
    April 05, 2014 - 09:04

    To expect the city to have every inch or every road and sidewalk cleared and salted at all times is insane. It is winter, people slip and fall usually because they do not watch where they are walking or wear proper footwear for the conditions. Sorry you got hurt but be more careful next winter where you walk! Next people will expect to sue because they got bitten my an insect and had a reaction while walking a nature trail...grow up man and suck it up like a normal person.

  • Kelly
    April 05, 2014 - 02:10

    Rob, I agree with Really and the others (who used real names) that sometimes you just have bad luck and it is a bit ridiculous to think the city would be on the line for it. You are responsible to look where you are going when it is slippery out. No one is going to come around and salt every inch of the city. I also noticed you said you were "next" to the crosswalk and not on it. Perhaps this is why the city thinks your claim is unfounded (it also may have to do with the fact that you were likely drinking at the concert what with having to have someone else drive you home). I feel bad that you can't work but you know life sucks sometimes and it's not usually anyone's fault. I think this one is on you sir.

  • VOR
    April 04, 2014 - 08:41

    The issue here is the nonchalance of the city when it comes to keeping streets and sidewalks clean. Many other cities like Ottawa and Quebec are colder and get more snow/ice than we do and THEY manage to get the job done because they realize how important this is. And St. John's KNOWS they've got something wrong, otherwise they wouldn't have commissioned an expensive snow-clearing study!

    • rod hand
      April 04, 2014 - 09:23

      could not have said it better VOR the cities web site clearly states under the roads division and I quote "the roads and traffic division is RESPONSABLE for maintaining the network of streets and side walks in the city so that SAFE and efficient movement of predestrians motorist and cyclists is possible .... during the winter months it preforms snow plowing , snow removal, side walk plowing and ice control activities.... on the night I fell , which was on a night of a concert event in the downtown area these procedures were not preformed... and according to the cities web site , no schedule maintance was preformed on that night or prior to..

  • Really
    April 03, 2014 - 22:02

    You slipped on ice in the winter and want to get paid for your injury??? If you get sunburn this summer, are you going to sue the city? What will you do if it rains and you get wet? You should go to McDonalds for a hot coffee.

    • rod hand
      April 04, 2014 - 08:32

      the roads should been properly salted on a night of an event such as a concert in which thousands of people would be in the area... and no I would not sue the city for a sunburn , why do you think the city is responsible for maintaining the suns rays REALLY?? your comments make no sense ... I don't why people come here to comment and don't use their real names I did not ask for this, what turned out a valentines night out turned into a nightmare, as for having a free cast, trust me id rather not have it... I am not looking to get rich from this, but I do want to be compensated for lost wages and rehabilitation after the cast comes off... im sure if you were in my situation you would do the same....

    • Really
      April 04, 2014 - 09:13

      They can't salt everywhere. I used the sun's rays to show how ridiculous this is. We don't use our real names because we don't need the attention that you obviously do. I was in your situation. About 15 years ago, I broke my wrist because of a crack in road pavement. Had a cast for a month but I didn't sue the city or go to the media.

    • rod hand
      April 04, 2014 - 10:13

      REALLY , again if you can make comments and hide behind an assumed name, that's your privilege... I have no reason to hide behind my comments... I am aware the city cant salt everywhere, I slipped next to a crosswalk , you think that area would have been salted... and again on a night when an event is held in the downtown area the immediate surrounding area of mile one should have been salted... and no its not ridiculous , im sure you would not be making the same comments if it was one St John's elderly citizens and could have easily could have been... I wanted to make my story known so that changes are made so this does not happen to someone else.... and its obvious there is a problem, otherwise the city would not be conducting a study to find out how the city can make our snow/ice covered streets safer

    • Really
      April 04, 2014 - 10:43

      Of course you have no reason to hide, more publicity is better for your case. Really sorry you got hurt but we can't expect roads and sidewalks done when we want them. It takes probably hours to plow the snow and salt the roads so somebody has to be at the end. When a truck salts the road, he can't be sure he gets everything. Stepping off the curb is the area where cars park so the truck may not get the salt to spread that far, including the crosswalk. It just bothers me when people think govt is responsible for everything.

    • David Wilson
      April 04, 2014 - 12:04

      From the length of Mr. Hand's replys to @Really's comments, I'd say he isn't doing too bad operating a keyboard. Maybe your employer could re-assign you to sales and operating the cash register untill your healed..... ever think of that?

    • rod hand
      April 04, 2014 - 12:28

      appreciate your concern Mr Wilson , but it still takes me a while to type this out for my responses... my employer already has someone on the front counter for sales.. saying that when work comes into the store you still need the use of two hands for quick and professional service for the customer....standing on my feet for any period of time , I do find it hard on my arm... I am unable to do the job I was hired to do....

  • mr salty
    April 03, 2014 - 21:55

    come on rod, are you serious? just because we pay taxes doesn't mean the government has to cover absolutely everything that might happen to you. you got your arm all fixed up nicely and casted for free, something that wouldn't happen in most parts of the world.