In March 2008 the Claimant visited an indoor climbing centre owned and run by the Defendant company.
She attended with a number of colleagues as part of a team building exercise organised by her employer.
The Claimant did not have any prior rock climbing experience.
She and her colleagues completed a two hour session overseen by two instructors employed by the Defendant. For most of the day the Claimant was climbing on a high wall with a safety harness. Upon reaching the top of the wall she would be lowered down by the harness rather then climbing down.
For the last 10 minutes of the session the Claimant and her colleagues were allowed to use a lower wall with no safety harnesses. Instead the floor was covered with crash matting over 12 inches thick. Only one of the instructors was supervising the low wall.
The Claimant jumped off it a number of times. She claims she was not told to stop doing so. On one occasion when she jumped, she turned in the air and landed awkwardly.
The Claimant brought a claim for damages for the injury to her ankle.
The Claimant’s case was that one no instruction was given for the use of the low wall other than that only two people could be on the wall at the same time.
The Defence was that a formal safety briefing was given before anyone began to use the low wall. The briefing had informed the Claimant and her colleagues that they should climb down the wall rather than jumping.
The Defendant said that the Claimant had admitted that she had been told not to jump down, but had chosen to do it in any event.
The Court had to determine the following issues:
- whether the Claimant had been told not to jump down from the low wall;
- whether a duty of care was owed either to the Claimant by the Defendant;
- whether the Defendant had been in breach of the duty of care;
- whether the Defendant could rely on the defence of volenti non fit injuria; and
- whether the Claimant had contributed to her injury and if so to what extent.
It was held that on the balance of probabilities, that no words were said to the Claimant or her colleagues that clearly said there was a prohibition on jumping down from the low wall.
The Defendant was liable because it had assumed responsibility for the Claimant by providing instructors.
The Defendant had breached the duty because the Defendant had known that the Claimant had only climbed upwards that day, and the Defendant had therefore known or ought to have known that she was at a disadvantage on the low wall.
By not instructing her not to jump down from the wall, the Defendant had failed to discharge its duty of care to the Claimant.
With regard to volenti, as the risk of injury could and should have been avoided by proper instruction, volenti did not apply.
With regard to contributory negligence, the Claimant was one third to blame for the accident because she had chosen to jump and to turn as she did so.