29 May, 2020
The High Court has considered the extent of the need for an organiser of an "enduro day", an off-road motorcycling event, to undertake risk assessments in relation to situations where there is an inherent and obvious risk of which the Claimant was aware. The case has wider implications for all "dangerous" sporting activities.
The conclusion in the case of Christopher Andrew Wells v Full Moon Events Ltd (t/a Dave Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre) (1) and Thorpe Honda Off-Road Centre Ltd (2)  EWHC 1265 (QB) was that the Claimant had not proved the cause of his accident, so he failed in his claim, but it is the obiter comments about what issues would have arisen had the judge accepted the cause of the accident that are of particular and more general interest.
The claimant brought his claim in negligence against an off-road motorcycling centre, seeking damages for personal injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
The brief summary of the facts were as follows:
Whilst the mechanism of the accident was not proved, so the claim failed the court went on to consider the extent of the duty of care owed had the mechanism been proved.
By the Claimant's own evidence he accepted that there was an inherent risk in off-road motor cycling. He also accepted that he was aware of the risks at the particular location where his accident occurred. The court stated that whilst the Defendant had a duty of care to organise the "enduro day" with regard to the safety of the Claimant, "that duty did not extend either to carrying out a risk assessment in relation to the path on which the Claimant had his accident or to warn him about an inherent and obvious risk of which he was already aware".
The duty is to ensure the reasonable safety of the Claimant in relation to risks that were not obvious, and even if there was a duty to warn it would have been of no assistance to the Claimant who was already aware of the risks by his own evidence.
The court also said that undertaking detailed risk assessments identifying all hazards and guarding against all hazards, instructing experienced riders on how to negotiate all sections of the course, or avoid parts of the course that would ordinarily be regarded as part of the off-road experience would negate the "enduro day" experience and be an unreasonable requirement on the Defendant.
Off-road motorcycling is a hazardous activity along with many other sporting activities. The court in this case referred to the social value of such activities. Whilst organisers of such events have a duty of care to ensure the reasonable safety of those participating, that duty is not absolute and does not guarantee the safety of participants.
Whether it be off-road motor cycling, skiing, or any other potentially hazardous activity, courts take into account the particular circumstances, including what is reasonable to expect the organiser to have done, the experience of the claimant and the social value of the activity. For an example of Forbes in action in relation to such claims please see the Forbes at Trial report elsewhere in this publication, on Nick Holgate's successful defence of an accident on a ski slope, which can be found here.