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Negligence claim dismissed after catastrophic go-karting injury

At a glance

  • Go-kart that was formerly property of a leisure company later involved in tragic accident
  • High Court was satisfied that liability could not attach in these recreational circumstances
  • Case shows that negligence claims can be brought against individuals in a business, whether or not they have acted negligently

The case of: Poole v (1) Wright (t/a Simon Wright Racing Development, (2) Chequered Flag Karting Ltd, (3) Abbott, 05.08.13, High Court

The claimant and her boyfriend visited his friend, the third defendant in this claim, Abbott. Abbott owned two go-karts which the group decided to drive in a nearby car park. The claimant was wearing a long scarf. During the drive, the claimant’s scarf became caught in the moving parts of the kart, tightening around her neck. As a result, the claimant sustained catastrophic injuries for which she claimed damages from the defendants. She was aged 21 at the time.

Get the facts

  • While the court expressed sympathy with the claimant for her injuries, the importance of reasonable foreseeability, as an element in proving negligence, was emphasised in this ruling
  • The court was not prepared to make a ruling that would effectively extend the common law duty of care owed by individuals in these types of situations because, to do so, would place too onerous a burden of potential legal liability on private individuals providing leisure pursuits for social reasons
  • Directors and Officers Insurance will pay the legal costs of defending claims made against directors

Abbott had acquired the kart approximately six months earlier from the karting company. The first defendant was the manufacturer of the kart. The moving parts of the kart were only guarded by chain strips. The kart was not subject to the more rigorous safety requirements introduced in 2005.

The court first examined from whom the kart had been acquired, ruling it had belonged to Chequered Flag Karting Ltd’s directors, not Chequered Flag Karting Ltd itself. Further, the directors did not owe the claimant a duty of care for the future use of the kart — they could not reasonably have foreseen the risks associated with the type of guarding on the kart. There was therefore no question of Chequered Flag Karting Ltd’s vicarious liability for the directors on this point.

The court also held that the relationship between the claimant and the directors was not sufficiently close that it would be fair, just or reasonable to hold them liable for her injuries. There were no regulations governing the purchase, sale or use of karts for recreational purposes but, the court held, this is no reason to hold that the directors owed the claimant a common law duty of care in these circumstances.

Further, Abbott was not liable in negligence. The accident occurred in a social situation in which Abbott allowed some of his friends and family members to use his karts free of charge. This was not a case where a private individual owner allowed another person to use equipment which the owner knew carried a potentially dangerous defect, which the user should have been warned about. The kart had no hidden defects. It was plain to see that the moving parts were close to where the driver would be seated.

The court ruled that, to hold a private individual liable in these circumstances would have far-reaching consequences by imposing too great a burden of legal responsibility on individuals who wished to share their equipment with others, for no financial reward.

Further, the court held that Abbott could not reasonably have foreseen that the claimant’s scarf created a risk of becoming entangled in the moving parts of the kart. The scarf was not trailing or loose when the claimant climbed in. The claim was dismissed.

Please click here for full judgment.

Image © Getty

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