City denies responsibility in artist’s injury

Published on April 3, 2014
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.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

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.

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.