England

Kent teacher loses £5m wellington boot throw damages bid

Glennroy Blair-Ford
Image caption Glennroy Blair-Ford is unable to move his body below the neck and requires ventilator support

A teacher paralysed in a wellington boot accident has lost his High Court claim for more than £5m in damages.

Glennroy Blair-Ford, 45, was on a Kent school trip in Devon when he broke his neck while taking part in a sporting event commonly known as welly wanging.

The teacher at Wilmington Enterprise College hit the ground head-first as he threw his boot back through his legs.

A judge said it was a "freak accident" and dismissed his claim against outdoor pursuits centre firm CRS Adventures.

The former head of design and technology had been on a week of outdoor activities with his secondary school pupils at the River Dart Country Park on Dartmoor in April 2007 when he took part in the "Mini Olympics" event on the final night.

'Catastrophic injury'

One of the games involved children and adults throwing wellington boots as far as they could, with the teachers having to throw backwards through their legs.

Lawyers for Mr Blair-Ford, formerly of Bromley, south-east London, argued that he had been asked by centre staff to throw the welly adopting an "unsafe" method.

They said his injuries were "a logical and foreseeable consequence" of a 6ft tall, 15 stone teacher throwing the welly backwards through his legs using the requested method.

They also argued that Mr Blair-Ford was entitled to damages because CRS Adventures had failed in its duty of care by not carrying out an assessment of the risks, and if it had done so "the method of throw would have been modified".

The 45-year-old is unable to move his body below the neck and requires ventilator support 23 hours a day, as well as being dependent on others for all aspects of day-to-day life.

Mr Justice Globe rejected the claim and ruled there was "no foreseeable real risk" of injury from welly wanging.

'Extremely sad'

In a written ruling, he said Mr Blair-Ford had suffered "a catastrophic spinal injury".

But he said he was "satisfied that there is good evidence of a number of people having witnessed on an appreciable number of occasions people throwing the welly backwards through the legs with two hands with no difficulty, no falling and no injury."

He said this was further supported by the evidence of everyone present - they were unconcerned about welly wanging taking place and they did not immediately appreciate what had happened when the accident occurred.

The judge concluded: "On the evidence I have heard, the risk of injury was not such that steps should have been taken to guard against it.

"In my judgment, the evidence of its likelihood was indeed 'lacking such reality that it could be disregarded' and was at most 'a mere possibility which would never influence the mind of a reasonable man'."

Mr Justice Globe added: "There was no foreseeable real risk. Extremely sad though it be, this was a tragic and freak accident for which no blame can be established."

Mr Blair-Ford and his insurers now face a large legal costs bill.

The judge ordered an interim payment of £100,000 to CRS Adventures pending a final assessment of the total amount.

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