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Successful Defence of Welly Wanging Claim

A former teacher who was left paralysed after suffering a spinal injury in a welly-wanging accident on a school trip has failed in his multi-million pound claim for damages.

Mr Justice Globe dismissed the claim of 45 year old teacher Glennroy Blair-Ford against CRS Adventure Limited, the operators of the outdoor pursuit centre where Mr Blair-Ford was injured.

Mr Blair-Ford was paralysed in the accident on 19 April 2007 when throwing a wellington boot backwards between his legs in the course of a “Mini-Olympics” event on the final night of a school trip to River Dart Country Park in Devon.

The judge found that it was a tragic and freak accident for which no blame can be established. 

Roger Sell, who runs the centre with his wife Clare, said:
“Clare and I have enormous sympathy for Mr Blair-Ford and respect for the courage he has shown in dealing with his terrible injuries.  But we do think that this claim should never have been brought. 

Although we have been given tremendous support by our insurers Canopius, the claim was potentially damaging to the reputation and survival of our business which we have built up over the past 8 years. We take pride in our outstanding safety record and thorough risk assessment procedures, and we are delighted that the judge  acknowledged this in making no criticism of our operation or our instructors.”

In a detailed judgment, the judge said that he was:
“entirely satisfied that Mr and Mrs Sell were running an efficient and professionally run operation for the benefit of the public, and for school-children in particular.  It was, and still is, an enterprise which provides immense social value.  It has been correctly licensed and monitored and its systems have been complimented by regulators.  Save for this incident, its accident record is excellent”.

Fiona Sperry, who was speaking for the Sells' insurers Canopius added:
“At Canopius, we are committed to supporting our policyholders.  This was a tragic case, but I hope the decision will be a wake-up call to the no win, no fee claims industry."

Ford & Warren solicitors represented the Sells in defending the claim.  It was argued that there was no foreseeable real risk of injury from the activity.

In finding for the Sells', the judge concluded “the risk was not such that steps should have been taken to guard against it.”

Mr Blair-Ford's accident occurred during a “Mini-Olympics”.  In the wake of London 2012, it is important to recognise that the law should not stamp out socially desirable activities in the name of health and safety.  There are some claims that just have to be defended.  Sad as it was, this was one of them.

Blair-Ford v CRS Adventures Ltd [2012] EWHC 2360 (QB)

Blaise Smith, Senior Partner, Claims Department.


Added Thursday 16th August