Compensation reclaimed

Judge overturns damages award

A High Court judge’s decision to strip a boy of £4,250 compensation could be good news for amenity managers, who welcome a possible rollback in compensation culture. Mr Justice Gross reversed an earlier court decision last week at the High Court in London, which awarded schoolboy Ryan Simonds, of Newport, Isle of Wight, compensation for breaking his arm when he fell off a swing at Chillerton County Primary School sports day in 1997. Gross said: “Playing fields cannot be made free from all hazards. I cannot conclude that the school was in breach of duty.” He added that when dealing with compensation claims, the courts “must keep in mind a sense of reality and common sense”. Institute of Leisure & Amenity Management head of communications Jonathan Ives said most ILAM members would be affected by the ruling. He said it reinforced a July House of Lords ruling against lawyers representing John Tomlinson, who broke his back when he ignored warning signs and dived into a lake at Brereton Heath Country Park in Cheshire and then sued Congleton and Cheshire councils. Ives said compensation culture had a “huge impact” on his members’ insurance premiums and the risk had halted some services. “These cases have sent a clear message to the public that they have to accept responsibility for obvious risks. ILAM hopes for more realistic insurance premiums.” Algarve Insurance Brokers managing director David Hewitt agreed that current trends in compensation were driving up liability insurance cover. He added that reverses like the Simonds case could mean an end to compensation culture, which has cost his company “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in insurance claims in the past few years.

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