Thursday, 31 July 2008

Judge bans brain-damaged boy from suing over bouncy castle accident

By Sophie Borland
31st July 2008

A couple ordered to pay £1 million damages after a boy was left brain damaged on their bouncy castle have won their appeal.

Timothy and Catherine Perry were held responsible for the accident in which 13-year-old Sam Harris was kicked in the head by an older teenager two years ago.

But today the country's top judge overturned a High Court ruling in May that the couple had not played close enough attention to the children's party.

article-0-012CD54900000578-350_224x353 article-0-0100C4AB00000578-310_224x351


Tragic: Sam Harris's mother Janet (right) was hoping for £1million in damages but the Court of Appeal ruled Timothy and Catherine Perry (left) were not to blame

Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice May and Lord Justice Wilson at the Court of Appeal, yesterday overruled Mr Justice Steel's decision by declaring that it was a 'freak and tragic accident'.

Legal experts have hailed the decision a victory for bouncy castles which had been left open to compensation claims by parents even if minor accidents were to occur.

Sam Harris, then aged 11, suffered a fractured skull after he was kicked in the head by a 15-year-old performing a somersault on the inflatable.

As a result he sustained what doctors described as a 'very serious and traumatic brain injury' and now needs round-the-clock care.

The accident happened at a 10th birthday party the Perry's were holding for their triplets in a playing field in Strood, near Rochester, Kent, in September 2005.

Sam, who had seen the bouncy castle during football training with his father, asked Mrs Perry if he and another boy, Sammy Pring, 15, could have a go.

The Perrys had also hired a bungee run and while Mrs Perry had her back turned, Sammy accidentally kicked Sam in the head when performing a somersault.


Accident: Sam was kicked in the head by an older child (file picture)

Initially the Perrys had blamed the tragedy on Sam's father claiming that he had not been looking after his son properly.

But the boys parents, Janet and David Harris, who are now separated went on to sue the couple and the High Court ruled that Mr and Mrs Perry should compensate the seriously brain-damaged boy.

The couple had to pay an immediate £100,000 to the family and were liable to pay up to as much as £1 million more in damages.

But yesterday the High Court ruling was dramatically overturned and Perrys will no longer have to pay the remaining £900,000.

Sam will not receive a penny in compensation and his parents are now expected to take their case to the House of Lords.

Commenting on the case, Neil Addison, a barrister specialising in civil law, said: 'This appeal simply marks common sense.

'If the couple had been forced to pay compensation it could have had implications on the general public being able to have fun.

'Parents would have been unwilling to hire bouncy castles in case there was an accident and councils would have stopped hosting fetes.

'It is a tragic accident and one obviously feels very sorry for the boy and his parents but I am not at all surprised at the outcome.'

During the appeal hearing, Lord Phillips said Mrs Perry was under no obligation to keep the bouncy castle under continuous observation, and it was not 'foreseeable' that it posed a 'significant risk of harm'.

Lord Phillips added that Mrs Perry had acted 'reasonably' in believing she could supervise the bouncy castle and the bungee run at the same time.

'The case does not turn on expert evidence or special knowledge,' he added.

'Essentially we have had to place ourselves in the shoes of Mrs Perry and consider the adequacy of her conduct from the viewpoint and the knowledge that she had.'

No comments: