Nine-year-old son of diver who died at Scottish shipwreck awarded £290k compensation

A nine-year-old boy has been awarded nearly £300,000 in compensation after bringing legal action against a dive charter company over the death of his father.

Lex Warner, 50, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, died in 2012 during a diving expedition to explore a boat wreckage 15 miles off Cape Wrath in the Scottish Highlands.

He was preparing to dive from the MV Jean Elaine, a boat hired from Orkney-based Scapa Flow Charters (SFC), when he fell on the deck while wearing his flippers, suffering internal injuries.

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Lex Warner, pictured on his 50th birthday, with his wife Debbie and their son VincentLex Warner, pictured on his 50th birthday, with his wife Debbie and their son Vincent
Lex Warner, pictured on his 50th birthday, with his wife Debbie and their son Vincent
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He was helped to his feet and continued with the dive after declaring himself fit, but got into trouble while submerged and could not be revived when helped back on board.

His widow Debbie Warner, who brought the case on behalf of the couple’s son Vincent, nine, welcomed a judgment from Lord Sandison sitting in Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, issued on Friday.

The court awarded £290,000 in damages after finding there was “fault and neglect” on behalf of SFC.

An inquest held in 2014 had returned an a verdict of accidental death.

Lawyers for the family had claimed the ship's skipper, Andy Cuthbertson, did not do enough to minimise the risks which came from divers walking on board boats while wearing fins.

Lord Sandison said that had a “system for the promotion of safer fin (flipper) practices been in place”, it would likely have eradicated or minimised the chances of Mr Warner falling and injuring himself internally.

“The injury he in fact sustained can therefore properly be said to have arisen from or in connection with the fault and neglect of the defenders previously identified”, the ruling said.

Mrs Warner said: “It’s been a long, long road and today’s ruling means so much to us, but it’s also something that can’t be properly expressed.

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“We feel relieved, numb and happy all at the same time, but also sad because at the end of the day we’re without Lex – this has been about seeking justice for him.”

The case was brought by Mrs Warner on behalf of Vincent, who was just nine months old at the time of his father’s death.

It was initially found by the Court of Session in Edinburgh that legal action against SFC was time-barred under the Athens Convention, which sets out laws on action for damages relating to the carriage of passengers at sea.

But in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled Mrs Warner’s claim on behalf of her son should be allowed to proceed.

Brian Castle, partner at Digby Brown solicitors, added: “For nearly ten years the Warner family has sought answers, justice and recognition for the loss of Lex, so this judgment is a welcome one.

“They have endured significant legal challenges and I commend the dignity and strength they have consistently shown in seeking justice because we cannot forget that at its core, this legal case is about a family who have lost their husband and father and want to be allowed to move forward with their lives.”

SFC has been contacted for comment.

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