[2008] EWCA Civ 646  

Mr Poppleton was an inexperienced climber who had engaged in simulated rock climbing without ropes at the Trustees of the Portsmouth Youth Activities Committee’s (TPYAC) indoor climbing room. Rules forbidding jumping were displayed outside the room, however, Mr Poppleton was not referred to them. When Mr Poppleton attempted to leap to an opposite wall he lost his grip and landed on his head on the matting below. He was rendered tetraplegic.  

At trial the District Judge concluded that there was nothing wrong with the state of the premises and that the claimant was under no duty to assess Mr Poppleton’s competence or ensure he had the necessary training. However, it was held that the claimant was in breach of its duty of care to him by failing to warn him that thick safety matting did not make a climbing wall safe but might induce or encourage an unfounded belief that it did. Liability was split 75/25 in the defendants favour. TPYAC appealed against the finding that it was in breach of it’s duty of care to Mr Poppleton and, in turn, Mr Poppleton cross appealed against the finding for contributory negligence.  

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and dismissed the cross appeal. It was held that where there was an inherent risk of injury as a result of a voluntarily undertaken activity, the law did not require the occupier of the land that the activity occurred on to prevent an individual from engaging in that activity, or to train or supervise him whilst he did it. It made no difference that that TPYAC had charged Mr Poppleton to use the facilities, nor that the rules which they displayed could have been more prominent.  

It is worth noting that the judgment in Tomlinson v Congleton BC [2003] continues to be applied. There was again a suggestion that public policy issues were considered when making this judgment. If the law had required training or supervision in the present case then it would have been equally required for a number of commonplace leisure activities which carried with them a degree of obvious risk.