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U.K.: defending assumption of risk

There's been much attention (and deservedly so) to the recent ruling of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in Tomlinson v. Congleton Borough Council (see Aug. 11), which vigorously and eloquently defended the principle of assumption of risk as a bulwark of "the liberty of the citizen" which helps prevent the imposition of "a grey and dull safety regime on everyone." See, for example, Scott Norvell, "'The Protection of the Foolhardy or Reckless Few'?", TechCentralStation.com, Oct. 2. Now, in a case that arose on the Isle of Wight, "A judge has stripped a schoolboy of a �4,250 damages award after his school argued that it would be 'madness' to compensate him for breaking his arm after falling off a swing as he played Superman during a sports day at Chillerton country primary school near Newport. ... [O]verturning the ruling that the school was negligent, Mr Justice Gross said at London's high court that if 'word got out' the boy had won his case 'the probability is sports days and other pleasurable sporting events will simply not take place ... Such events could easily become uninsurable, or at prohibitive cost.'" (Clare Dyer, The Guardian, Sept. 25; Chris Boffey, "Judge's ruling 'saves school sports days'", Daily Telegraph, Sept. 25). See also articles by barrister Jon Holbrook in Spiked Online: "'Duties of care' to the careless and criminal" (Tony Martin case, etc.), Jul. 29; "The trouble with Making Amends" (medical malpractice law), Aug. 22; "Blind spot" (road accident caused by pedestrian), Sept. 23.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered where it ran Oct. 3, 2003]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.