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Jacob Marx was just 27 when a nearly 450-pound sign broke his neck and fractured his skull five years ago.

The fatal accident involving a “dangerously insecure” advertisement for the British bookmaker William Hill plc occurred just four months after Marx moved to London, according to proceedings that recently began in the U.K.’s Blackfriars Crown Court.

James Ageros, a health and safety law expert with London’s Crown Office Chambers acting for the prosecution in the case stemming from Marx’s January 2013 death, said that the former New Zealand lawyer was 11,000 miles away from home and “supremely unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

According to news reports, Marx was walking past a William Hill betting shop in London’s Camden neighborhood around 5 p.m. Jan. 28, 2013, when a 35-foot metal sign, affixed to a wooden frame above the business, fell and struck him. Marx was taken to a local hospital but died about an hour later after suffering a heart attack brought on by his severe head injury, according to news reports about the case.

A 2015 inquest—a common legal procedure in England and Wales for sudden or unexplained deaths—into the circumstances that led to Marx’s death looked at refurbishment work done on the William Hill sign over the years.

Marx was working in an in-house job at legal research giant LexisNexis Group when he moved to London with his girlfriend in late 2012. Before that he had been based in Auckland and Sydney, where he had worked in both the corporate and dispute resolution groups at leading Kiwi firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, which is affiliated with Australian legal giant Minter Ellison.

Jacob Marx and Natalie Chung (Photo via Facebook)

“Jacob was a good lawyer, respected professionally for the quality of his work and his integrity, and well-liked for his open and friendly personality,” Minter Ellison said in a statement at the time of Marx’s death. “We were shocked and saddened to hear the news and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be missed.”

Marx’s parents have said publicly that their late son was a “kind, fun-loving, intelligent, mischievous, exasperating, competitive and loyal friend.” His former girlfriend of nine years, Natalie Chung, had moved with him from Auckland to Sydney and London. The couple had planned on getting married.

London-based William Hill, which is being represented by prominent British barrister John Cooper of 25 Bedford Row, is accused of violating U.K. health and safety standards. Cooper did not immediately return a request for comment, but William Hill has denied any wrongdoing. Last week a worker for an installation company told the Blackfriars Crown Court that the fallen William Hill sign had been bolted in properly, according to the BBC.

Proceedings in the case are expected to continue for the next few weeks.


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