“Thrill seeker” ride risks - an operator’s duty of care to prevent personal injury

“Thrill seeker” ride risks - an operator’s duty of care to prevent personal injury

The serious injuries suffered at Alton Towers’ reminded us that, whilst such injuries are thankfully very rare, “thrill seeker” rides are not completely risk free.

The Court of Appeal decision in Lowden v Jumpzone Leisure in June 2015 shows the risks and duty of care owed also by operators of smaller attractions to prevent personal injury.

Mr Lowdon took part in a “Hyper Jump” ride on Brighton beach. This propelled customers into the air by elastic ropes while strapped into a harness. The company’s own safety guidelines included asking the customer if they were ready.

On his second jump the operator failed to ask this and the jump started before Mr Lowdon had braced himself. He suffered a serious neck injury; dissection of the vertebral artery with temporary loss of vision. He was awarded personal injury compensation.

The ride operators appealed, arguing no personal injury was reasonably foreseeable, since they had received no previous reports of injuries. The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal, pointing out that both expert evidence and the company’s own guidelines indicated injury was more likely to result from the ride if a “ready” warning were not given.

We think that conclusion was right.

The key to health and safety is risk assessment; someone sitting down and thinking through the risks of personal injury from the activity and what actions can be reasonably taken to reduce them.

The company had effectively done that in recommending a “ready” warning be given to customers before the jump started. However, they failed to follow their own recommendation. It was always going to be difficult to argue that the personal injury risk was not forseeable, as they themselves had already forseen it.