Forbes at Trial - Claimant v A Rollerblade rink provider

Published: March 23rd, 2021

7 min read

What does a claimant undertaking a leisure activity have to prove to successfully claim against the organiser of the activity and owner of the premises when an accident occurs, leaving him injured?

This was the question in a recent claim that Forbes successfully defended which was brought by a teacher who said that he had injured himself whilst roller skating when taking a group of pupils to a roller rink.

His case was that he was a proficient roller skater, having been roller skating many times previously. He claimed that the skates that were being given out by our client were old and worn and that numerous pairs had been returned to them as they were faulty. He said that the particular skates that he was using suddenly unbuckled and unclipped as he was skating, causing him to fall.

The allegations against our client were that they had given him a defective pair of skates and that these were the cause of the accident. He claimed that there was no system for checking the skates. As a result he claimed that the Roller Rink were negligent or in breach of their duties under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 for failing to take reasonable care of the claimant as a visitor to the rink.

The judge identified the issues as being whether the boot was in fact defective, and, if defective, did that defect lead to his fall, and if so was the defendant aware, or ought they to have been aware of the said defect?

There were several areas of concern that we identified with our clients from the outset.

  • The accident report stated that he had been showing off and skating backwards at the time, and that is why he fell. The claimant had signed this document and his attempts at trial to distance himself from that by saying that he was in pain so signed anything, failed. The judge rejected that completely.

  • Despite having called witnesses to the fall the claimant, in fact, had no witness who actually witnessed the fall who was close enough to be able to give evidence of the cause, so he was the only one who could say what happened.

  • His evidence that he was not given a proper demonstration as to how to ensure the boots were worn correctly was refuted as the court preferred the evidence of the defendant's witness who remembered the claimant due him mentioning a previous knee injury. How would the witnesses have known that if the claimant had not mentioned it?

  • On the issue of whether the boot was defective, there was conflicting evidence from each side, but the judge considered the claimant's credibility and found in favour of our client.

A major issue for this claimant on credibility was the contemporaneous accident report and medical records, none of which recorded a defective boot as the cause of the fall, and, potentially more damaging for this claimant, he had failed to tell his medical expert of his previous knee injury.

Having obtained supportive witness statements and in view of our concerns about the records, our clients supported our view that the matter could be defended to trial. The judge dismissed the claim finding that the claimant was skating backwards, when he twisted and fell, and that was the cause of the accident.

Forbes Comment

The claimant had no answer for the documentary evidence which we used to challenge his version of events, in the face of excellent witnesses on behalf of our client. Whilst there are risks in every case, it is important to look beyond simply the witness evidence, to contemporaneous records where issues of recollection, and contradictory statements are concerned.

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