Stage Manager paralysed in theatre fall awarded £3.7 million in out of court settlement

A stage manager who was paralysed when she stepped into an empty space where a balcony should have been, falling three metres to the stage below, has been awarded compensation of £3.7 million in an out of court settlement.

Soho theatre, the London venue where the incident occurred, was also prosecuted by Westminster Council. It pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £20,000 with £10,000 costs.

Lawyers for the theatre had argued that the size of the fine should reflect the fact that the penalty could have a negative effect on members of the public who benefit from its charitable and educational work.

Rachael Presdee was working on the 2012 production of tragicomedy Boys for the Headlong theatre company. On 9 June, while preparing for a matinee performance, she went to look for the stagehand in charge of lighting.

She opened the unmarked door and stepped though a black curtain immediately behind it, assuming that it was a light blocker. But she stepped into empty space where the balcony, traditionally used for performances of Romeo and Juliet, should have been.

The door had been identified as a hazard a month before, but nothing had been done to alert workers to the danger or prevent access to it.

Presdee was in hospital for six months and is now confined to a wheelchair.

The compensation was negotiated with insurers for the theatre and production company. The trade union Equity, which paid Presdee’s legal fees, said the payout was the biggest in its history and one of the biggest ever in the UK entertainment industry.

“I could not have imagined when I walked in to work on 9 June 2012 that I would never walk out of there, or walk anywhere else ever again,” said Presdee.

“The impact of my injury can be seen by the level of compensation required to cover the costs of carers for me, future needs including specially adapted home and equipment, and loss of a lifetime’s earning.”

Soho theatre said it had done as much as possible to ensure Presdee received the best possible care after the fall and that it had reviewed its internal processes to prevent a repeat of the incident.