The Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s ruling that a boy who suffered brain damage after he was kicked in the head while playing on a bouncy castle should be awarded compensation that could have amounted to £1 million.
Sam Harris, who was 11 years old at the time of the accident, had been playing on a bouncy castle set up in a field behind the home of Catherine and Timothy Perry. The Perrys had hired a bouncy castle and a bungee run for their triplets' birthday party. Sam, who was passing with his father, asked Catherine Perry if he could join in.
Whilst on the bouncy castle Sam was kicked in the head by a 15-year-old boy doing a somersault. Sam's skull was fractured and he suffered a very serious and traumatic brain injury. As a result, he now has severe behavioural problems and requires round the clock care.
In May, the High Court found the Perrys liable for damages. In its view, the accident had been caused because they had not provided adequate supervision for the children playing on the bouncy castle and the bungee run. The Court found that there should have been someone there to prevent the older boy from using the bouncy castle at the same time as the younger children and to ensure that dangerous play was prevented. The hire contract for the castle also stipulated that it should be under constant supervision whilst in use. At the time of the accident, Mrs Perry had her back turned away from the castle while attending to a child on the bungee run.
The Perrys appealed against the High Court’s decision, arguing that they had acted no differently from parents up and down the country.
The Court of Appeal judged that Mrs Perry could not be blamed for what was a ‘freak and tragic accident’. Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said, “The manner in which she was supervising activities on the bouncy castle and the bungee run accorded with the demands of reasonable care for the children using them.” He added, “It is quite impractical for parents to keep children under constant surveillance or even supervision and it would not be in the public interest for the law to impose a duty upon them to do so.”
The Court judged that Mrs Perry had acted reasonably in thinking that she could supervise both play activities at the same time and the injury sustained by Sam, whilst severe, could not reasonably have been foreseen.
As a result of this ruling, Sam will not receive compensation for his injury. However, it is thought likely that his parents will apply to take his case to the House of Lords, despite the Court of Appeal having refused their request for permission to appeal.