Girl who suffers serious spinal injuries competing in Rodeo denied compensation

Oct 20, 2023 | Publication

On 23 October 2020 the New South Wales Court of Appeal made an interesting decision with respect to common law claims and obvious risk.

The claim related to circumstances where a girl, aged 19 at the time, had fallen off her horse whilst competing in a campdrafting event held by the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association Ltd. The fall occurred when her horse slipped whilst cantering in the arena. There was strong evidence that the grounds of the arena had deteriorated during the course of the event and that some 700 riders had participated in the event prior to the plaintiff. The defendant argued that the risk of the fall was an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity. 

The primary judge in this case found for the defendant on the basis that negligence was not established by the plaintiff and that the said fall was an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity.

The plaintiff appealed the decision of the primary judge. Although the appeal was dismissed by the majority of judges, it should be noted that McCallum JA dissented. That is, he found for the plaintiff.

The majority dismissed the appeal on the basis that a reasonable person would have made an informed decision as to whether it was safe to continue with the competition in circumstances where so many riders had previously ridden in the arena. The majority did not find that a breach of duty of care had been established by the plaintiff. Nor did they find that the exercise of reasonable care would have required the event to be stopped for ploughing of the arena or a warning issued to the plaintiff that the arena had become unsafe. The majority held that the occurrence was a manifestation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity.

McCallum J found however that ‘the risk that materialised must be characterised with enough particularity to enable the court to determine whether it was foreseeable by the organisers, whether it was capable of attracting liability and whether it would have been obvious to a reasonable person’ in the position of the plaintiff. McCallum further found that the plaintiff’s description of the risk was adequate and that the said risk would not have been obvious to a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position.

Had the plaintiff been successful in her claim, she would have received $6,750,000 in damages. This amount was agreed to by the parties when the matter was before the primary judge.

The decision can be read in full here: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/175442151938da8c1921ac72

The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this publication is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. We are not responsible for the information of any source to which a link is provided or reference is made and exclude all liability in connection with use of these sources. If you do not wish to receive newsletters from us, please let us know.

Latest Insights

New Coercive Control Laws in NSW as of 1 July 2024

From 1 July 2024, coercive control will be a crime in NSW when a person uses abusive behaviours towards a current or former intimate partner with the intention to coerce or control them. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022makes it an...

Key Rules on Discovery Procedures for Prospective Defendants

Rules 5.2 and 5.3 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (UCPR) provide essential guidelines on discovery aimed at identifying or locating prospective defendants. These rules are instrumental in the pre-litigation process, ensuring that applicants can gather...

5 Ways A Director Can Be Sued

Directors can be sued for all sorts of reasons.  Here are 5 of them. Reason #1: Insolvent Trading A director can be sued if the company he or she is a director of trades whilst insolvent.  A director has a duty to prevent the company trading and incurring...

7 Ways to Enforce a Judgment

After a judgment is obtained for an amount of money, there are numerous options open to a judgment creditor in relation to how to enforce the judgment (i.e. how to obtain the money which is owed pursuant to the judgment). Option #1: Issue a Bankruptcy Notice If the...

Who Can Bring a Compensation to Relatives Claim?

In the unfortunate event of a loved one's passing due to negligence or wrongful act, the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897 in New South Wales outlines the parameters for pursuing compensation on behalf of the deceased. Understanding who has the legal standing to...

10 Myths of Being Sued

If you or your business are sued, there are many myths about how the legal process will pan out.  Here are 10 myths about the legal process – all are incorrect. Myth #1: The matter will definitely go to a hearing Most matters settle before a Judge decides...