Just what exactly is the standard of a Bulgarian ski instructor?

March 19, 2010

accident, Negligence

Gouldbourn v. Balkan Holidays Ltd & Another (2010) CA (Civ) (Unreported) 16th March

The claimant (Gouldbourn) appealed against a first instance decision dismissing her claim for damages following a knee injury while skiing. The accident arose while the claimant was on a ski holiday in Bulgaria. She had earlier been on a nursery slope practising snowplough turns before the group moved onto another slope with an experienced instructor. While following the instructor down, the claimant lost control on her third snowplough turn and injured her knee.

Although both parties accepted that liability arose under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 reg.15(2), there was a dispute between them as to the appropriate standard of care. The claimant argued that the relevant standard was the FIS Rules for Safety in Winter Sports Centres “which imposed, among other things, a duty on ski schools, instructors and guides never to allow pupils to take any risk beyond their capabilities.” By contrast, the ski school argued that the appropriate standard was to be judged against the local standards in Bulgaria (a view also held by the initial trial judge).

The Court of Appeal held that the FIS Rules might have imposed a duty on ski instructors never to allow pupils to take any risk beyond their capabilities, but it did not identify or mandate how that duty was to be implemented. They therefore held that the trial judge was right to use the Bulgarian local standard (and no evidence was put before the court suggesting the instructor breached this standard). Indeed, the court held it was not unreasonable or inappropriate for the ski instructor to have taken the claimant on the slope they did. Given this finding, the only logical outcome was to dismiss the case.

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

View all posts by Kris

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