Bounce Australia Pty Ltd (Bounce) operates a trampoline park in Melbourne. At the park, people can participate in games of ‘trampoline dodgeball’, where teams throw balls at each other whilst bouncing on trampolines. The plaintiff broke his leg during a game when his right foot landed on padding covering the trampoline springs. The plaintiff issued proceedings against Bounce in the County Court of Victoria.

Bounce called evidence at trial which established that there were warning signs advising of risk and of customer responsibility. They were located at the entrance foyer, registration desk, and at various locations throughout the park. Participants (including the plaintiff) wore wrist bands referring to the conditions displayed on these signs. Safety rules were also noted on signs, including one outside the dodgeball court, which included ‘Don’t jump or land on padding’. The plaintiff denied seeing the signs or having his attention drawn to them.

At trial, the jury dismissed the claim.

The jury answered the following two questions which gave rise to an appeal by the plaintiff:

2. … did the defendant fail to take reasonable care in giving warning of the risk to the plaintiff or in giving the plaintiff relevant safety information, and if so, was that failure a cause of the plaintiff’s injury? — Yes.

4. If yes to question 2 …, did the plaintiff voluntarily accept the risk of sustaining injury? — Yes.

The plaintiff argued that it was necessarily inconsistent for the jury to have answered ‘yes’ to both of these questions. If the defendant’s failure to warn of risk had been a cause of the plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff could not have been aware of the risk. If the plaintiff was not aware of the risk, he could not voluntarily agree to accept it.

Fundamentally, the plaintiff’s appeal both arose from, and failed due to, the poor drafting of questions 2 and 4. There were separate questions posed in question 2 – whether there was a failure to warn of risk; and whether there was a failure to provide safety information. The Court noted that it was entirely possible for the jury to have found that the plaintiff was warned (and therefore aware of) the risks of trampoline dodgeball but was not given safety information, and that it was the failure to give safety information which was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury. If that was the rationale behind the positive answer to question 2, it would not be inconsistent with the finding that the plaintiff had voluntarily assumed the risk of being injured whilst playing the dodgeball game.

The plaintiff’s appeal therefore failed.

Rakich v Bounce Australia Pty Ltd [2016] VSCA 289

This decision highlights that people engaging in inherently dangerous recreational activities are required to take personal responsibility for the risks associated with those activities, where adequate warning of the risks has been provided. A failure to provide information as to how to engage in dangerous activities more safely does not negate the participant’s voluntary decision to assume risk.