A disabled boy fell to his death because care home workers were too afraid to restrain him over ‘health and safety’ fears. James Dean Brotherhood, 18, had brain damage and was susceptible to blood clots following treatment for a brain tumour, which was removed when he was eight. But despite his medical history and the evident danger, carers at a specialist unit stood by and watched as James pulled himself up onto a windowsill with his wheelchair still strapped to his back. The teenager fell and hit his head – and within hours was dead. His family have now received a four-figure payout. When asked by a coroner why he did not intervene in the moments before the tragedy, one of his carers wrongly stated the home had a ‘no restraint policy’ due to health and safety rules.
Following the out of court settlement, James’s mother Suzanne said: ‘If a toddler ran out into the road, would they have stood by and let them get run over by a car?
‘After the accident, I was told that he had suffered a slight knock but in the inquest I discovered he had received a severe blow to the head.
‘There were three carers in the room at the time and they just stood next to him and watched him for several minutes before he fell.
‘They should have just grabbed him and stopped him from doing it, then my little boy would still be here.’
After his death, bosses at the Aarons Specialist Unit, in Loughborough, sent his family a £12 cheque for James’s funeral flowers after the inquest in May.
Now, the home’s owners Rushcliffe Care have agreed to pay Mrs Brotherhood and her ex-husband Dean, 46, an undisclosed sum, although they continue to deny any responsibility for James’s untimely death.
James was diagnosed with medullablastoma – a tumour on his brain stem – at the age of eight.
He underwent surgery and two years of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to treat the tumour.
James was left with balance issues and over time his behaviour changed and he would keep his family awake at night, getting out of bed to lie in the middle of the road.
He also suffered a number of health problems including blood clots.
By October 2008 his behaviour was becoming increasingly difficult for Suzanne and Dean, who also have two daughters, Katy, 26, and Amy, 17, to look after.
By this time, James was using a wheelchair and following a bout of encephalitis, James’s parents made the decision to place him in the Aarons Specialist Unit in the hope the intensive therapy offered there would give him the opportunity to walk again.
Suzanne, who now lives in Hinckley, Leicestershire, with her partner store depot worker Phil Blackburn, 47, said: ‘I didn’t want to put him in the unit.
‘But the services they offered seemed perfect for James and he was so desperate to learn to walk again that I allowed him to go.
‘The managers reassured me that they would keep him safe and I visited him every day.’
On May 28, 2009, Suzanne claims she received a call to say he had received ‘a slight knock’ but that he seemed fine and had not been sick.
The next morning, Suzanne was preparing to visit her son when she received another call to say that staff at the centre had called a doctor to check on James ‘just in case’ and that he had said to monitor him for the next 24 hours.
A short while later, she received another call to say James had been sent to hospital in an ambulance.
As he was taken into A&E at Leicester Infirmary, James suffered a massive heart attack and died in his mother’s arms.
Since then, Suzanne has been searching for answers as to how her son could have been allowed to hurt himself while under the supervision of three carers.
She said: ‘He was strapped into his wheelchair so I don’t know how someone who couldn’t walk could have pulled himself up onto a windowsill like they said he did.
‘I don’t care about the money, all I’ve ever wanted from Rushcliffe Care is an explanation and an apology.’
An inquest in May this year heard how three members of staff were with James when he pulled himself up on a window frame to try to see a motorbike outside.
He was still strapped into his wheelchair and the hearing at Loughborough Coroner’s Court heard his carers tried to persuade James to climb down but at no point did they physically intervene.
In evidence, they said there was a ‘no restraint’ policy and that health and safety regulations prevented them from stepping in.
Senior care assistant Dale Watret told the inquest that he was in the room with James when he climbed on the windowsill, but he could not physically step in to get him down because of a health and safety policy.
Mr Watret said carers were told to talk to patients and distract them from behaving in ways that might cause them to harm themselves.
He told the inquest: ‘I would stand and observe – maybe a couple of feet away. He happened to hear a motorbike starting up. James made his way to the window and proceeded to climb up. He was kneeling on the windowsill and he was looking out.
‘I said “Look, you need to come down because it’s dangerous”, but he was distracted by the motorbike.’
Mr Watret, who is no longer employed by Rushcliffe Care, said he shouted for help.
Coroner Robert Chapman asked Mr Watret: ‘Why didn’t you grab him?’
Mr Watret replied: ‘Health and safety policy states you don’t catch anyone to break their fall.’
Mr Chapman asked if that was the firm’s policy. Mr Watret replied: ‘It’s health and safety policy all over the country, I am led to believe.’
He told the inquest he was concerned about being injured himself.
Mr Watret said: ‘I was asking him to come down. The back of his head hit the floor. It happened so fast. Everything after that is a bit of a blur.’
Coroner Robert Chapman recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by bleeding on the brain.
At the time, he said: ‘The issue I find the most difficult to deal with is that for one or two minutes James was holding on to the window frame with his wheelchair strapped to his back.
‘The staff realised it was dangerous. No attempt seems to have been made to take simple action to intervene.’
Darren Carnwell, a senior manager with Rushcliffe Care, which owns the unit, said staff should have been trained to physically intervene ‘as a last resort’.
Mr Chapman also said James’s care plan meant he should only have been in his wheelchair when being moved around the home, but staff members with him when he fell did not know that.
He said he was further concerned James was not always made to wear a protective helmet, as his care plan suggested.
Following the payout, Neil Clayton, a specialist in medical negligence and care home neglect with Harvey Ingram Shakespeares solicitors said: ‘This was a tragic accident that would have been avoided if Rushcliffe Care’s staff had used basic common sense.
‘There were several opportunities that were missed to prevent James climbing on the window and to get him down safely once he had done so. I hope that lessons have been learned and that an awful event like this will never happen again.’
Since the accident, Suzanne has struggled to cope with the grief of losing her only son.
She said: ‘James went through so much in his life and his death has left the whole family traumatised.
‘I miss him every day. He might have had brain damage but he was still smart, he passed a science GCSE not long before he died.
When Mail Online contacted Rushcliffe Care a man, who refused to give his name or his position in the company, said they would not be giving any comment on the case and hung up.