Santa sued in Grotto Accident – Elf to Blame!

An unfortunately festive personal injury case was heard in the Court of Appeal recently which pitted an elderly Claimant who suffered personal injuries against Santa and his little helper.

In Dufosse v Melbry Events Ltd a family group, including the elderly Claimant, visited a Santa’s Grotto in a well known London department store.  The grotto was fairly small and manned by Santa himself, along with a single Elf helper.  The Elf was responsible for ushering people in and ensuring that the pathways in the grotto were clear, and Santa was responsible for ensuring that the area around his throne was safe between each visitor.

The family group was made up of 6 people so with Santa and his Elf there were 8 people crammed in to a 4m x 3m space, made even narrower by two Christmas trees and a number of toys.  The Claimant claimed that she had slipped and injured her leg on an icicle bauble which had fallen from one of the trees, whereas the Defendant events management company stated that there was no such bauble and the Claimant had simply lost her footing.  Evidence for the Claimant was provided by an independent witness who saw the bauble being removed from under the Claimant’s leg after she had fallen.

At first instance the Judge held that there was a good inspection regime in place and if the icicle had not been spotted then it must have been obscured, possibly by the presence of a toy train.  The Claimant appealed to the Court of Appeal and won on the basis that if the icicle was there to be stepped on it was there to be seen, and although a good inspection system was in place the Elf was also concerned with a number of other duties and it is possible he had simply missed it.

Having found for the Claimant the Court of Appeal also had to determine Contributory Negligence, i.e. whether the Claimant should bear some responsibility.  The evidence suggested that she had been asked by the Elf to step backwards to avoid being caught in a photo which was being taken, and there was no way that she could have seen the icicle or been aware of its presence.  In addition, it was not for the Claimant to ensure that there were no tripping hazards in the grotto; that was Santa and the Elf’s job.  As such, no contributory negligence applied.

It seems that even Santa cannot avoid his elf and safety obligations and he may have to abandon his flying sled in favour of a less dangerous form of transport in the future, or at least carry out a comprehensive risk-assessment.  What impact this may have on the delivery of Christmas presents on time is yet to be seen, but if you do not get what you asked for this Christmas spare a thought for Santa and his Elves and the legal obligations that they must satisfy before even thinking about scrabbling down your chimney.

If you have been involved in a festive (or indeed any other type of) accident in a public place call David Mayor or any of our Personal Injury Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 975 2463, or contact us by email for free expert legal advice.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from us all at Forbes Solicitors!!


David Mayor

About David Mayor

David is Head of the Preston Office's Civil Litigation team and deals with all types of private Civil Court disputes. David’s blogs cover his expertise in all aspects of personal injury law from low value Road Traffic Accidents right through to complex large loss claims. David also writes and has a vast array of experience in Public Liability (trips and slips), Employer's Liability (accidents at work), and Motor Claims (motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents).
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