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High Court ruling for Weightmans as Judge decides in its favour in sporting activities case

Today (Tuesday 19 May 2020), a team led by Partner Bruce Ralston secured a positive result for our client in the case of Wells v Dave Thorpe Honda –…

Today (Tuesday 19 May 2020), a team led by Partner Bruce Ralston secured a positive result for our client in the case of Wells v Dave Thorpe Honda – confirming that in sporting activities where there is an inherent risk or threat of injury, the duty of care remains with the experienced participant to sensibly expect and anticipate those risks.

The case involved an experienced motorcyclist who was injured whilst attending and taking part in an off road motorcycling event. He maintained that his wheel struck a submerged rock in a puddle in a byway open to all traffic, causing him to lose control and hit a tree. Tragically he suffered catastrophic injury – tetraplegia.

Deputy Judge Bowes did not accept that the claimant has proved that the cause of the accident was him striking a concealed object – instead, he hit other rocks due to making an error in the manner he negotiated the puddle. Whilst that was enough to decide the case, he then went on to consider the duty of care. Based upon cases dealt with by Weightmans Partner Roddy MacLeod (Tomlinson, Poppleton and Grimes), the Judge stated that the duty of care did not extend either to carrying out a risk assessment of the path on which the claimant had his accident, or to warning him about an inherent and obvious risk of which he was already aware.

The extent of the defendant’s duty of care was to ensure the claimant was reasonably safe in relation to risks posed by the defendant’s activities which were not obvious. Finally, for good measure, the Judge decided that if there had been a breach of duty, it did not cause the claimant’s accident.

Bruce Ralston comments: 

"This case reinforces the fact that when choosing to participate in a risky sport or activity and subsequently sustaining an injury, then the fault may well lie solely with the participant. Whilst we have every sympathy for the claimant, were this claim successful it would have had huge ramifications for those operating sporting activities up and down the country, a number of which do involve risks being taken. If liability had been established here, this could have led to the availability of such past times, enjoyed by so many, being withdrawn due to the fear of successful compensation claims."

Read the full judgment

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