The law of negligence in the field of personal injury compensation claims is back under the spot light at the moment as a result of changes which I reviewed in October this year (21st Century Britain with 19th Century Health and Safety ) and now another case has established the boundaries of liability between friends who borrow, for their own amusement, leisure equipment and then suffer injury.
In Poole v Wright, Chequered Flag Racing and Abbott, heard recently, a 21 year old woman with five friends one of whom was Mr Abbott, decided to have a spin around a public car park on two petrol engined go-karts owned by Mr Abbott. All had a few spins and when it was Miss Poole’s turn neither Miss Poole herself, Mr Abbott or any of the other adults present realised the significance of the neck-scarf she was wearing. During her lap, it came loose and entangled itself around the rear axle and she was strangled by it. The scarf was freed off but not quickly enough and the claimant sustained life changing injuries.
She brought an injury compensation claim against the owner of the go-carts alleging that he should have realised the obligation to warn her to remove the scarf.
The law states that when engaged in any activity one must take reasonable care to avoid injury to those persons who might foreseeably suffer injury as a result of that activity.
However, the court decided that Mr Abbott had taken such care as was necessary to discharge the duty on him and in particular there was no duty on him to require him to remove Miss Poole’s scarf. The claim for injury compensation failed. The court decided that to extend liability in this way would place an intolerable burden upon the owner who lends out leisure equipment where the owner is not aware of the existence of any defect rendering it dangerous.