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Coroner finds failings by housing authority and housing association caused the death of an epileptic woman who fell from the balcony of her London flat

An inquest into the death of 39-year-old Marwo Kassim, who fell from the balcony of her third floor flat in west London after an epileptic seizure, has found that the failure of the local housing authority and housing association to provide her with safe accommodation was a cause of her death.

Posted on 24 November 2023

Assistant Coroner Richard Furniss concluded that, although Marwo’s death was an accident, it happened because the London Borough of Ealing and London & Quadrant Housing Association had failed to provide her with a ground floor flat, despite concerns over her safety being raised for several years.

Marwo Kassim

On 19 June 2022, Marwo was found seriously injured on the pavement below her flat in Acton, having had an epileptic seizure and fallen from its third-floor balcony. She died from her injuries nine days later, after being treated in hospital. 

She had lived alone in the flat, provided to her by L&Q, for nine years, despite the concerns that her epileptic seizures meant there was a risk of her falling from the balcony being repeatedly raised by her family, her consultant neurologist and Marwo herself.

The three-day inquest at West London Coroner’s Court heard how a series of failings and missed opportunities by the London Borough of Ealing and L&Q, often related to poor communication between the agencies themselves and with the family, led to a seven-year long failure to provide Marwo with a safe, ground-floor flat.  

In recording accidental death on Wednesday 22 November, Assistant Coroner Richard Furniss concluded that the following had caused Marwo’s death:

  • An overall failure by the London Borough of Ealing and L&Q, from 2015 to 2022, to ensure Marwo was housed in safe, ground floor accommodation, which she plainly needed.
  • Persistent, multi-agency failures in communication, chiefly by the London Borough of Ealing and L&Q, both to communicate amongst themselves and to Marwo and her family.  Had appropriate communication taken place, Marwo would have been rehoused in ground floor accommodation. 

The Assistant Coroner also found that a failure by the London Borough of Ealing to provide Marwo with a specialist epilepsy sensor which would have alerted others when she was having a major seizure, possibly contributed to her death.

Marwo’s family were represented at the inquest by solicitor Sarah Westoby, from the law firm Leigh Day, and barrister Jim Duffy of 1 Crown Office Row. 

Speaking on behalf of the family, Marwo’s brother, Nasir Kassim said:

“We feel relieved and vindicated by the result of the inquest and are grateful to the coroner for his conclusions which will help us reach closure after the pain and sorrow caused by Marwo’s death. We have waited a long time for our voices to be heard but feel we have at last been able to highlight the failings and mistakes made by the authorities which sadly led to this tragic accident. Marwo was a much-loved daughter, sister and auntie and we all miss her greatly. We hope and trust that lessons will be learned from Marwo’s death and that other families will be spared from the pain and frustration we have experienced.”

Solicitor, Sarah Westoby, said:

“After many years of trying to get safe housing for Marwo and feeling they were not being listened to, the Kassim family finally feel their voices have been heard. My client hopes that similar agencies will now take note of the risk of housing people with epilepsy at height and pay greater attention to the concerns of vulnerable residents and their families. The Kassim family fought long and hard to try to get safe accommodation for Marwo. Although their voices were not heard until it was too late, they hope their struggle can help prevent similarly avoidable tragedies from occurring in future.”

Sarah Westoby

Sarah Westoby

Sarah Westoby is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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