Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics,

Source: Harrison (A Child) v. Wirral Metropolitan BC (19/3/09) (unreported), Liverpool County Court, (Zurich Case)

Echoing the famous House of Lords authority of Bolton v. Stone [1951] 1 All ER 1078, a similar case was recently brought by a six year old boy struck by a golf ball while he was in a park adjacent to a golf course. The boy alleged the golf club (not literally the driver used but the organisation!) were liable in negligence for:

  • Not having built a higher fence (Bolton)
  • Using a fence with broken wire mesh in places which would allow a ball to pass through
  • Failing to put warning signs in place (although I would be impressed by a six year olds reading prowess, it may be pictorial signs might have been better?)
  • Failing to carry out a risk assessment (Poppleton / Uren)

By contrast, the defendants suggested that a 4m high fence was suitable and therefore satisfied their duty towards the public. They also suggested that the risk of a golf ball leaving the area and striking someone was so small that it did not justify further precautions being taken (the Bolton argument). Liverpool County Court heard evidence that in the five years prior to the incident, there had been few, if any, misdirected golf balls leaving the area and no previous injuries reported in that period. While these statistics are not as impressive as those cited in Bolton, they are enough to suggest that the defendant club had met their duty of care. Given these conclusions, while the injury was a tragic accident caused by golf, the claim against the club failed.

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About Kris

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

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