A solicitor who said she stood virtually no chance of becoming a senior partner after suffering debilitating headaches caused when she fell through an open hatch on a diving boat was awarded more than $800,000 yesterday. Mandarin Divers Marine Services Ltd, its director and boat owner Paul Neilsen and his son, diving instructor Sven Neilsen, were ordered to pay the damages to Marlene Susanne Courbet, 54. The accident happened on June 8, 1997. Deputy Judge Peter Longley in the Court of First Instance had heard Ms Courbet fell 1.5 metres down an open hatch, hitting her head and neck. She had been aboard the boat, moored at Clear Water Bay, Sai Kung, to sit an exam for a diving certificate. The court also heard both parties had accepted Sven Neilsen, whose ex-girlfriend had fallen down the hatch and cracked her ribs one year earlier, had warned the diving students the hatch was open. But Deputy Judge Longley held Sven Neilsen's recollection as to the precise nature of his warning was 'hazy' and that he had not taken further steps to protect the diving students. The company and Paul Neilsen were also held liable for Sven Neilsen's negligence. Deputy Judge Longley classified Ms Courbet's injuries as serious and awarded her $500,000 for pain, suffering and los of amenities. The court heard she still suffered headaches, back pain and neuralgia, which had shortened her working hours. Ms Courbet's contention that she would have left the firm of Fok & Johnson to join the larger firm of Munro, Claypole and Reeves had it not been for the accident was rejected. But Deputy Judge Longley did award her $66,310 for loss of opportunity to earn an increased salary pre-trial, with an additional $123,779 for post-trial losses. For the loss of capacity to earn an existing salary, Ms Courbet received $250,000, $40,890 for special damages and $42,000 for future medical expenses. The judge held Ms Courbet 20 per cent responsible for the accident as she was 'a fit and intelligent adult' who had been warned of the hatch, reducing the sum to $818,383.