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Uren v (1) Corporate Leisure (UK) Ltd & (2) MOD (3) Pratt & Others, Syndicate 2525

Richard Lynagh QC and Shaun Ferris successfully represented the First and Third Defendants in this action brought by the Claimant who sustained a neck injury which rendered him tetraplegic.

The First Defendants were a company who provided packages of competitive games of the “It’s a Knock-Out” variety. They were retained to provide such a package for a Health & Fun day at RAF High Wycombe where the Claimant was a senior aircraftman.

The Claimant was a member of one of the teams competing over a series of games. The game in question involved the participants running up to an inflated pool and getting over the side, retrieving a plastic piece of fruit and returning to the start to enable the next team member to go.

The inflated sides of the pool were about 1m high and the pool contained water about 18 inches deep. Participants in the game adopted a variety of methods of entering the pool including sliding in head first. The Claimant ran up and launched himself over the side with his arms outstretched but unfortunately struck his head on the bottom of the pool and broke his neck.

The Claimant brought proceedings against the MOD as his employers and against Corporate Leisure. The First Defendants’ insurers were added as Third Defendants when the First Defendants’ name was removed from the Companies Register.

The Claimant contended that there were breaches of the common law duty of care and of inter alia the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998). In particular it was contended that head first entry should have been prohibited by the organisers of the game.

The trial of the issue of liability came before Mr. Justice Field who held that the game presented a small risk of serious injury but that a balance had to be struck between the level of risk involved and the benefits conferred by the activity. He held that prohibiting head first entry would have neutered the game and robbed it of much of its enjoyable challenge. In the circumstances the Defendants were not in breach of their common law duties of care and the claim failed. The Claimant had accepted that whether there had been a breach of the 1998 Regulations was essentially the same question as whether there had been a breach of the common law duty of care. Accordingly the claim was dismissed.

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