Given the recent weather and the cancelation of numerous sports due to sporting field conditions, the High Court of Australia has delivered a timely decision which provides guidance to event organisers. RMB Compensation Division leader CHRIS SHEPPARD EXPLAINS:
In a recent case involving a serious injury to experienced horsewoman Ms Tapp, the High Court had to decide whether the Australian Bushmen's Campdraft & Rodeo Association breached its duty of care to Ms Tapp, whether this breach caused an injury and whether the injuries sustained were the result of the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational injury.
During a campdrafting event organised by the association, four contestants fell while competing over a 45 minute period.
After the first three falls, a contestant asked the organisers to stop the competition as the ground was becoming slippery. Organisers decided to continue the competition.
After another fall, the contestant repeated his concerns that the ground was unsafe. Again, the organisers decided to continue.
Shortly afterwards, Ms Tapp competed and fell when her horse slipped. She suffered a serious spinal injury.
In 2019 the Supreme Court of NSW found that Ms Tapp should have been aware of the "obvious" potential for serious injury in what was a "dangerous recreational activity". The Court found the Association was not liable for Ms Tapp's injuries because they were the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity.
Ms Tapp unsuccessfully appealed the Supreme Court decision.
However, in a final appeal, the High Court overturned the previous decisions, and held that the association had breached its duty of care and that Ms Tapp's injuries were not the result of the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity.
The High Court found that the association’s decisions to continue the competition despite warnings were not reasonable, and it should have stopped the event in response to the elevated risk of contestants being injured from falling from horses on the deteriorated surface of the arena.
The Court decided that the risk would not have been obvious as Ms Tapp did not have the opportunity to inspect the ground in the arena; a reasonable person in her position would not have had any concerns with the surface from observation and information from other contestants; and she did not observe any other falls and was not aware there had been any.
The appeal was allowed and Ms Tapp was awarded $6,750,000.
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If you have suffered from a slip or a fall resulting in injury, your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.