28 July, 2021
Forbes recently successfully defended a claim brought against our client, Brean Theme Park. The claimant was employed as a ride operator and was working on a roller coaster when he said his accident occurred. He alleged that he was required to slow the ride carts down by hand to stop them crashing into each other at the end of the ride, and that whilst doing so he fell through a gap in the platform he was standing on that was next to the rails that the roller coaster ran on.
The claimant's evidence was as up and down as the roller coaster he was operating at the time. From the outset the claimant had issues as he was inconsistent about where the accident had occurred even in his Claim Notification Form (CNF), one section referring to the end of the ride and another section the start, which he accepted were in different places. In an attempt to clarify where the accident was said to have happened, he was asked in cross-examination to mark a photograph with the location. In doing so he identified a different place to that referred to in the CNF, and as shown on a photograph exhibited to his witness statement. He could not explain this difference other than to say he had not circled the photograph in his statement, and he had no idea how it got there. There were now at least three different locations identified.
The claimant's evidential difficulties continued in relation to his evidence about having to stop the carts manually. He was shown YouTube footage of someone operating the same ride, which the judge described as showing a cart stopping on its own at the end of the ride and moving towards the start without anyone touching it. Nonetheless, the claimant was clear that he had been told to stop the carts by hand, even if it was pointless to do so.
By contrast, the defendant's evidence was clear that the carts did not need to be stopped by hand and that the claimant was not told to do that. Why would he be told to carry out a pointless activity and why would a roller coaster be designed to need manual assistance in the way alleged.
As to the alleged gap in the floor that the claimant said he fell through, the evidence was that it was not defective, there was a platform walkway that was in good condition, and the only "gaps" were those that were necessary for the ride rails to pass through, which was not a defect, nor was it an area that the claimant was required to walk on in any event.
The Claimant's claim was dismissed. Recorder Russell found his various written and oral accounts to be so lacking inconsistency that they could not reasonably sustain a claim for damages. In addition, she was clear that there were no integral defects with the rollercoaster and the Claimant's training, so far as it concerned handling the carts, was adequate. She was not persuaded that he had been advised to pull carts to a manual stop.
Whilst the claimant's evidence was all over the place, and it is for a claimant to prove his claim, the close cooperation between the defendant witness and Forbes meant that we were able to present the best defence to sow doubt in the judge's mind as to the claimant's accident circumstances. The defence witnesses were all able to give confident and consistent evidence which highlighted the evidential inconsistencies of the claimant's evidence. Unfortunately, despite the inconsistencies, the judge was not prepared to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty.