MOD liable for ball pond injuries

Posted: 28th February 2013

An RAF officer who suffered crippling injuries when he dived head-first into a shallow ball pond during an 'It's a Knockout' style fun day is due to up to £6 million damages after a High Court ruling. Finding liability proved against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the charity event’s organisers, the court ruled that risk assessments carried out prior to the accident were ‘fatally flawed’.

Senior Aircraftman, Robert Uren, was aged 21 and at the start of his Air Force career when he was paralysed during what his lawyers described as a ‘silly, childish, game’.The July 2005 event at RAF High Wycombe had involved competitors diving into a blow-up pool filled with plastic fruit.RCJ

Mr Justice Foskett said that no-one involved in organising the event had turned their mind to the risk of serious injury posed by head-first entry. Noting that a similar accident ‘could easily have happened to someone else’, he said that, had there been a proper risk assessment, steps could have been taken to protect competitors which would neither have spoiled the game nor diminished its social value.

The MoD and the organisers had argued that ‘the game, as played, was safe’ and the judge emphasised that neither drink nor any irresponsible behaviour had any part in the accident. There was also no reason to doubt that the defendants were usually thorough in carrying our risk assessments. However, the judge concluded: ‘This was a responsibly organised day that, sadly, ended in a tragedy that could and should have been avoided.’

The ruling opens the way for Mr Uren to claim up to £6 million damages to cover the enormous cost of the care and assistance he will require for the rest of his life. The exact amount of his compensation due to him, and the proportion of liability to be placed on each of the defendants, will be resolved at a further High Court hearing unless settlement terms are agreed in the meantime.