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January 2011 – Injury Claim – Scout Association v Barnes

Developments in the (so called) Compensation Culture – Stephen Brookes reviews The Scout Association v Barnes

Despite statistical evidence suggesting that there is no overall increase in personal injury claims, the media and the Government would have us believe we are gripped by a compensation culture and events up and down the land are being cancelled for fear of litigation risk. Given such circumstances it is surprising that the claimant in this case ever came to be injured at all – he was a teenage boy who, with his scout group, was playing a game which was akin to musical chairs, except with blocks of wood instead of chairs and played in the dark. Now I would have thought that the ” in the dark ” part of the game would have caused the organisers to be frantically checking the terms of their liability insurance but perhaps not. Needless to say, the young claimant was injured when he stumbled into a bench against the wall.
The claimant won in the county court but the case went to the Court of Appeal even though the damages at stake were very modest. By a 2 to 1 decision the Court of Appeal decided in favour of the Claimant because the element of darkness made the game more exciting but it brought a much enhanced level of risk of injury not justified in the circumstances.
Is this not just another example of common sense at play? In a room with hard floors, walls and obstacles would a supervising parent at a children’s party allow a group of 15 to 20 excited young teenagers to run around the room with blindfolds on? Or would a voice in the head not whisper quietly – hey, is that a sensible thing to allow?
What do you think – is it another example of the compensation culture or good old fashioned common sense?

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