Scoutmaster injured on fireman’s pole wins damages

Posted: 22nd February 2013

Fire enginesA scout master who suffered permanently disabling back injuries when he ‘hit the deck’ after sliding down a fireman's pole in front of his troop has been awarded almost £170,000 in compensation. The High Court found the proprietor of the adventure centre where the accident took place vicariously liable for an assault course instructor’s breaches of duty.

The claimant fractured a vertebra when he ‘landed on his bottom’ after descending the 10-foot pole which was part of the Clyne Farm Centre's ‘Challenge Valley’ assault course, near Swansea, in August 2009. He was helicoptered to hospital after coming to grief on the ‘Burma Bridge’ obstacle and, despite major surgery, his work as a taxi driver and as a carer for his disabled wife had been seriously curbed by his continuing pain and disability.

The court rejected allegations that the claimant was the 'author of his own misfortune' and described as 'entirely fanciful' submissions that he had released his handhold on the pole whilst showing off in front of his troop. The court found that the 24-year-old instructor had failed to demonstrate how to safely descend the pole in the wet conditions or to instruct the claimant in the correct technique.

Geoff Haden, trading as Clyne Farm Centre, was ordered to pay the claimant a total of £167,514 damages, including £25,000 for his pain, suffering and loss of amenity and other sums for his lost earnings and the extra assistance he will need due to his permanent injury. The court found him ‘a genuine hard-working man’ who had devoted himself to the care of his wife, who was confined to a wheelchair by a childhood condition, and their four-year-old son.

Lawyers for Mr Haden, a chartered structural engineer, had submitted during the hearing that he devised the assault course with the help of an expert Army instructor and that, since it opened more than 20 years ago, it had been used by 300,000 people, half of them children, without any similar accidents.