Damages ruling offers charities reassurance

Charities that are worried about frivolous and excessive damages claims should be reassured by the failure of a man to sue the charity that owns a climbing wall he fell from, according to a firm of charity insurers.

The man sustained serious injuries after climbing without a rope in an activity centre owned by the Portsmouth Youth Activities Committee. The appeal court judge said the man, who was a novice climber, had undertaken an obviously risky manoeuvre and that the charity had not been required to warn him of the dangers.

However, the judge also criticised some aspects of the climbing wall and warned organisations to carry out proper risk assessments.

Lindsay Gray, senior liability underwriter at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said newspaper stories about frivolous compensation claims, such as schools being sued by children injured while playing conkers, had led to fears among charities that they would be held responsible for injuries sustained on their premises.

He said: "Provided that charities adopt a proportionate and sensible approach to risk, they can be content that the law is now taking a more reasonable and sensible approach to accidents like this. An accident does not of itself demonstrate that negligence has occurred."

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