Claim Derailed By Compelling Statistics

Article

15 February, 2019

Shaughnessy v Adrenalin Zone Ltd

The Claimant brought a claim following an accident on an amusement attraction. The attraction in question offers riders the thrill of skydiving and hang gliding. Participants wear a full body flight suit that supports the flyer in a prone position. The flight suit is then connected to flight cables and they are swung back and forth in a pendulum motion.

Prior to the ride commencing, customers are taken to an area set aside to put on flight suits. They are fitted with harnesses and told to hold the foot bar so that they do not trip over it. They are then escorted to the ride up some steps and strapped onto the ride itself. The accident occurred after the Claimant had been fitted with her suit (including harness) and was on her way to the steps. The route takes riders over a metal rail upon which the ride runs. This Claimant tripped over the metal rail and sustained an injury.

The Claimant alleged that the occupier had breached its duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act for failing to provide a safe route to the steps, for requiring riders to wear a harness which led to a "shuffle-type" walk, for failing to provide any warning as to the position of the metal rail, and for failing to highlight the metal rail with paint, despite the area leading to the rail being highlighted with red and yellow stripes some 4ft long.

In the Judgment, the Judge accepted the Claimant's evidence as to how the accident had happened but dismissed the claim. He repeated that the duty is to take such care as in all the circumstances is reasonable to see that visitors are reasonably safe. Occupiers do not need to ensure that visitors "are absolutely or always safe"; noting that to do so would abdicate people from being responsible for their own safety.

Forbes comment

The judge was keen to stress that the law does not demand a "standard of perfection". There had been no previous accidents, and he referred to the Defendant's "profoundly compelling statistics" that over 500,000 people varying from children to the elderly had enjoyed the attraction without tripping over the rail. Occupiers must only do what is "reasonably practicable" they are not expected to take steps, which would be disproportionate to the risk. If a risk cannot be eliminated, then reasonable and proportionate steps must be taken to reduce the risk to the lowest possible level.

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