01 March, 2016
Brian James Lear v (1) Hickstead Ltd (2) WH Security Ltd (2016)  EWHC 528 (QB) QBD (Picken J) 14/03/2016
The Claimant had attended the All England Jumping Course, Hickstead to watch the Longines Royal International Horse Show. After the show, he returned to his horsebox and as he lowered the ramp it tragically fell on him. Mr Lear suffered serious spinal injuries and consequently brought a claim under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 and in negligence against the first defendant (D1) and a claim in negligence alone against the second defendant (D2) for allowing vehicles to be parked in such a manner that they caused obstruction to each other.
The Claimant had parked his horsebox on the directions of an employee of D2; he left his horse in the horsebox and because it was a very hot day he left the ramp down. When he returned several hours later, he found that someone had put the ramp back up; he began to put the ramp back down using the hydraulic system, but it fell onto his head, causing him severe injuries. Whoever had raised the ramp had done so manually by lifting it into the closed position instead of using the hydraulic controls. The Claimant contended that the accident had occurred because the horseboxes were parked too close to one another and another horsebox driver had lift the ramp manually to get out.
At trial, the Judge dismissed the claim. To establish a breach of duty, the Claimant had to show that his horsebox had created an obstruction, which had resulted in someone having to lift the ramp in order to leave the carpark. The Court found that it could not be said that D1 or D2 had done anything which resulted in an obstruction. The evidence revealed that the ramp had been raised to enable whoever raised it to gain quicker egress (by reversing rather than driving forwards) from the showground, not because the claimant's horsebox and ramp were causing an obstruction.
He held that the defendants had discharged their duty of care to visitors, because the parking had been reasonably managed to avoid obstructions arising as far possible. He also held that Hickstead had discharged it's duty of care to Mr Lear at common law and under the OLA 1957, by engaging and monitoring competent independent contractors to manage the parking.
Organisers of events should carry out detailed risk assessments to identify reasonably foreseeable accidents. Those organising equestrian events involving horse boxes should ensure that they have a system in place designed to prevent obstructions and to allow adequate space to allow horseboxes to move forwards when leaving. As in this case, drivers should also be asked to display their telephone numbers on their passes and in the windscreen of their horseboxes, so that they can be contacted.
For further advice please contact Elizabeth Bower by email or on 01254 222399.