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Pauline Carter v Kingswood Learning and Leisure Group Limited - Angus Piper, 1 Chancery Lane

26/07/18. Foskett J gave judgment on the 27th June 2018 on the claim of Pauline Carter v Kingswood Learning and Leisure Group Limited [2018] EWHC 1616 (QB), having heard evidence and submissions over 4 days earlier in the month. The trial was in respect of liability only, on a personal injury claim which was potentially worth a substantial sum as the Claimant had sadly suffered a stroke following a Vertebral Artery Dissection (VAD) which had left her with severe ongoing disabilities. The Claimant contended that she had sustained the VAD whilst engaging in an abseiling experience with the Defendant, on a purpose-built abseiling tower.

The abseiling experts agreed that the Claimant (who was a school teacher on a school trip) was being given a taste or experience of abseiling, rather than actually being taught to abseil. The experts agreed that with a chest harness and a taut safety rope, participants were effectively lowered down by an instructor and the whole process was extremely safe for them.

The tower had an initial very steep (63 degree) slope for the first couple of metres, following which the drop to the ground became vertical. The Claimant alleged that her upper body had been caused to suddenly “flop backwards”, thereby jerking her neck, at the point of transition to the vertical drop because of instructor inattention / lack of support on the safety rope, for which the Defendant was responsible. It was common ground between the abseil experts that the Defendant’s system was a safe one if properly implemented.

There would need to be slackness in the safety rope to permit the Claimant’s upper body to flop backwards in the manner that she contended had occurred. By the end of the trial it was accepted that with the safety system that was in place, there was only one mechanism by which the accident could have occurred as contended for by the Claimant. Namely, a scenario whereby the Claimant was holding herself stationary on her abseil rope, thus supporting her body weight on that rope, whilst simultaneously pulling her safety rope down towards her chest, thereby creating a degree of slack rope between her chest harness and her hand on the safety rope...

Image: public domain

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