21 July, 2015
In the matter of Jason Lowdon v Jumpzone Leisure UK Ltd (2015) EWCA Civ 586 a company operating a fun fair ride known as the "Hyper Jump" on Brighton Beach appealed against a first instance decision that the Claimant had suffered personal injury as a result of its negligence.
The "Hyper Jump" involved customers being strapped into a harness with elastic ropes on either side. The operator counted down from three and released the ropes when the rider signalled they were ready. Once released, the rider was propelled into the air and bounced up and down for a matter of seconds. The claimant alleged that he was released without warning on his second ride. The claimant sustained personal injury, the day after the accident his neck became stiff and he had a sudden loss of vision. He had sustained a dissection of the vertebral artery.
The company argued that the jump had operated without injury for many years with thousands of customers, and that it was not reasonably foreseeable that a customer who was properly strapped in could be caused injury by being released without warning while their head was down.
The Court of Appeal agreed that the judge had been entitled to conclude that the risk of neck injury was a foreseeable consequence of launching a customer on a sports ride without adequate warning when not braced. The company's own guidelines highlighted the possible risks of failing to adhere to security rules, which included asking the customer if they were ready. The absence of any previously reported injuries and the operation of the ride did not, per se, demonstrate that such injury was not reasonably foreseeable.
In another matter, Essex County Council has been fined after a 15 year old novice climber plunged seven and a half metres from an indoor rock face at a climbing centre in Harlow whist being belayed by an eight year-old, who had only attended three previous climbing club sessions. The climber suffered bruised internal organs, back and neck, as well as deep muscle tissue damage.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the instructor was not competent to run this type of progressive climbing club session, as she did not have the required climbing training and site-specific assessment.
Essex County Council, operating as Essex Outdoors, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,599 in costs, as well as a victim surcharge of £120 for breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.
The HSE commented "It was foreseeable that an accident of this type could occur. The resulting injury from such a 7.5m fall could have been much worse."
Sport and leisure activities often carry inherent risks. These two cases highlight the importance of undertaking adequate risk assessments to consider the risks that may potentially arise from a particular leisure activity and taking adequate precautions to guard against that risk. In each of the above cases, well trained staff would have prevented the accidents and subsequent injuries.