By RYAN TAYLOR
A FORMER army cadet who took legal action against the Ministry of Defence after suffering serious facial injuries in a rock climbing accident has settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Claire Huntington, 23, from Vallafield in Tingwall, claimed £20,000 compensation after being hit by a falling rock during the exercise near Blair Atholl in Perthshire in April 2003.
She said she had instinctively looked up when a warning was shouted from above.
The rock, which Miss Huntington said was the size of a “building brick”, fell 30 feet before hitting her face.
She received treatment for a six centimetre cut to her cheek, plus injury to her eye socket and jaw, after being airlifted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
The MoD initially defended the action, but a settlement was agreed before the case could be heard at Perth Sheriff Court.
Speaking to The Shetland Times yesterday Miss Huntington said she was relieved to have the whole episode behind her.
But she said no amount of money could take away from the trauma she had suffered.
“It’s alright, but it wouldn’t make up for what happened to me. I’m just glad it’s over, because this has been dragging on ever since I was 17, and I’m 23 now.
“I’ve been having to go to hospital for tests, and I’m a bit upset that it has been going on all this time.
“I’m scarred for life. The money in my back pocket isn’t going to last forever, but the scars will.
“I’m pretty peeved off. I have been both physically and mentally scarred by this.
“I still get a pain in my face even now. It’s horrible when I go out at weekends and people ask me what has
happened to me.”
Miss Huntington, who has suffered from mood swings and a loss of confidence since the accident happened, said senior officers in charge of the exercise should have seen that cadets were not gathered at the foot of the rockface where they would be at risk from falling rocks.
She said it was their duty to take reasonable care to survey the rockface for loose rocks.
And she said it should have taken steps to move the cadets back when people were climbing.
In its defence, the MoD said the accident had been caused, or at least materially contributed to, by Miss Huntington herself, claiming she had a duty to take care of her own safety during the training exercise.
But Miss Huntington, who now works as a barmaid at the Nortscot Angling Club in Lerwick, said she had only been standing where she was told to go.
“That annoys me because I was told to do what I was doing.
“They let me down, because when you are in the cadets, if you are told to do something you have to do it, so I was a bit gutted when the MoD said I was partly to blame.
“I was really annoyed at the time and I am still pretty peeved off.
“It has been a long few years, but I’m glad to get it out of the way and not have to speak to solicitors every week.”