The mother of a disabled man who was left a quadriplegic when he dived into a public swimming pool has cried tears of joy and relief after winning a court appeal that will see her son receive a $6.5 million payout.

Reece Hodder, 29, who was already deaf, blind and mute, became paralysed in January 2006 after diving off a block into the shallow end of a pool at the South Hedland aquatic centre.

His mother Elaine Hodder has been his full time carer ever since.

Last year District Court Judge Patrick O’Neal found the town of Port Hedland was 90 per cent negligent and attributed 10 per cent blame to Mr Hodder which reduced the agreed $6.5 million in damages to $5.85 million.

However the council appealed against the liability ruling while Ms Hodder also launched an appeal against the decision.

In a Court of Appeal ruling today the council appeal was thrown out and it was found to be entirely to blame.

Chief Justice Wayne Martin said because of Mr Hodder’s existing disabilities he could not be blamed for his action.

“It should be concluded that Mr Hodder did not fail to take adequate care for his own safety,” he said.

Outside court Ms Hodder said she was relieved because the money would ensure her sons future.

She prayed the town of Port Hedland did not seek leave to appeal to the High Court.

Ms Hodder said some of the money had been able to be accessed pending the appeal which had made her son much happier.
She said he was starting to enjoy life now and could go on some outings while she could also have some respite.

“It has been seven years of hell and I am tired,” she said.

“If I don’t stand up for him who has he got. He is worth every minute of it, for all the fighting as long as I have got my son with me, that is my main concern.”

Ms Hodder’s solicitor Donna Percy said the payout was important because it would enable Mr Hodder and his mother to have choices about his care and quality of life.

“It is a better outcome than we even expected,” she said.

The council was found to have breached its duty by failing to remove the diving blocks despite repeated warnings they posed a risk to recreational users.

Judge O’Neal dismissed action against the YMCA which managed the centre on the council’s behalf, a ruling that was upheld by the appeal judges today.

A spokeswoman for the town of Port Hedland declined to comment about today’s judgment, but a lawyer representing the council told the court it would be considering its position in light of losing the appeal.

The West Australian

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