Welly-wanging, for those not in the know, is a pastime at outdoor events in England which involves throwing a wellington boot backwards through the legs. The longest throw wins. (The English have to resort to this sort of thing when the Olympics aren’t on.) Glenn Blair-Ford, a rugby-playing 40-year-old, took part in some welly-wanging during an activity course for pupils at the school where he taught, but with very unfortunate consequences. He appears to have chucked the boot so hard that he lost his balance, falling forward and hitting his head on the ground. He was rendered quadriplegic. Blair-Ford sued the organisers of the event, claiming that they had asked him to perform the toss in a way which they ought to have known was unsafe and for failing to have taken an adequate assessment of the risks involved. The defendants replied that Blair-Ford’s accident was a tragic but freak occurrence and that their risk-assessment was reasonable and would not have raised concerns that such an accident was likely to happen.

Globe J of the Queen’s Bench reviewed the somewhat conflicting evidence, but was satisfied that the event organisers were professional and efficient, their activities correctly licensed and regulated. Their safety record was otherwise impeccable. A formal risk-assessment had not been undertaken with respect to the welly-wanging component of the activity course, but the organisers did engage in a ‘dynamic’ assessment of potential risks (e.g. was anyone likely to be hit by a flying boot?). The evidence suggested that Blair-Ford threw the boot in an unusual way (almost straight up in the air, with his head quite close to the ground), making his fall – and his injuries – equally unusual and thus unforeseeable. His claim therefore failed: Blair-Ford v CRS Adventures Ltd, [2012] EWHC 2360 (QB).

[Link available here].