Nathan Tavares successfully defends Hickstead in spinal injury claim
Nathan Tavares successfully defended Hickstead Ltd, hosts of the Royal International Horse Show, against the claim of Mr Lear, a participant injured when the ramp of his horsebox fell on him causing paraplegia.
Mr Lear was a competitor at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, at the Hickstead Showground, Sussex, on 30th July 2011. He was permitted to park his 18 tonne horsebox in a field designated for horseboxes and left it’s rear ramp lowered. He returned to the vehicle about 4 hours later and found that the ramp had been raised and shut. He proceeded to open it and the ramp fell down on him with great force, resulting in fractures to his spine which have rendered him paraplegic.
Mr Lear brought a claim against both Hickstead and WH Security, under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 and common law, for permitting vehicles to be parked in such a manner that they caused obstruction to each other.
Mr Justice Picken, the judge, dismissed Mr Lear’s claims. Although he found that some injury was foreseeable in the given circumstances, it was likely that the ramp was put up to give another vehicle a short cut to exit the Showground, rather than because it was obstructed. He held that the defendants had discharged their duty of care to visitors, because the parking at Hickstead was reasonably managed to avoid obstructions arising as far possible. He also held that Hickstead had discharged it’s duty of care to Mr Lear at common law and under the OLA 1957, by engaging and monitoring competent independent contractors to manage the parking.
This judgment may have wide ramifications for organisers and hosts of equestrian events. Event organisers need to take reasonable steps to ensure the parking of horseboxes is managed in a way which avoids vehicles obstructing one another. At the present time, the parking at many horse events is an uncontrolled free for all, though that was far from the case at Hickstead.
Barristers: Nathan Tavares QC