Mr Brian James Lear v Hickstead Ltd and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeThe Honourable Mr Justice Picken,The Hon. Mr. Justice Picken
Judgment Date14 March 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] EWHC 528 (QB)
Docket NumberCase No: HQ14X02968
CourtQueen's Bench Division
Date14 March 2016

[2016] EWHC 528 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

The Honourable Mr Justice Picken

Case No: HQ14X02968

Between:
Mr Brian James Lear
Claimant
and
(1) Hickstead Limited
(2) W.H. Security Limited
Defendants

Colin McCaul QC and Anthony Reddiford (instructed by Lanyon Bowdler LLP) for the Claimant

Nathan Tavares (instructed by Darbys Solicitors LLP) for the First Defendant

Benjamin Browne QC and Roger Harris (instructed by Plexus Law Limited) for the Second Defendant

Hearing dates: 25, 26, 29 February and 1 March 2016

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

The Honourable Mr Justice Picken The Hon. Mr. Justice Picken

Introduction

1

This is a tragic case. What had, no doubt, been an enjoyable day at the All England Jumping Course, Hickstead watching the Longines Royal International Horse Show ended with the Claimant, Mr Brian Lear, suffering serious spinal injuries when the ramp to his horsebox fell on him as he lowered it. The result is that Mr Lear is now, some 4 1/2 years after the day in question, 30 July 2011, largely confined to a wheelchair with incomplete paralysis of his lower limbs and bladder/bowel dysfunction. It is impossible, in the circumstances, to feel anything but sympathy for Mr Lear. The issue which I have to determine is, however, whether either or both of the Defendants, Hickstead Ltd ('Hickstead') and W.H. Security Ltd ('WH') are liable to Mr Lear, it having been ordered that liability should be determined as a preliminary issue. In determining this issue, as will appear, there is a dispute (i) as to whether a relevant duty of care was owed by Hickstead and/or WH and (ii) if there was such a duty, as to whether there was any breach.

2

On behalf of Mr Lear, Mr McCaul QC and Mr Reddiford submitted that the answers to each of these questions ought to be in the affirmative. Mr Tavares, on Hickstead's behalf, and Mr Browne QC and Mr Harris, on WH's behalf, made submissions to the contrary. For reasons which will become apparent, my main focus in this judgment will be on (i) and (ii). However, I should mention at this stage that Mr Tavares, Mr Browne QC and Mr Harris also contended that, even if their submissions were not accepted in relation to (i) and (ii), in any event, there is no liability on the part of Hickstead and WH because (iii) the damage in respect of which Mr Lear claims is too remote, (iv) this is a case in which there has been a novus actus interveniens, and (v) the principle of volenti non fit injuria applies. Lastly, if there is any liability at all, their submission was (vi) that there should be a reduction in the level of damages recoverable by Mr Lear because he was contributorily negligent.

The events giving rise to the claim

3

Although I heard evidence from as many as 12 witnesses and there was also evidence in the form of a witness statement from another factual witness as well as two experts' reports, the facts of this case are largely uncontroversial and can be simply stated. I say straightaway that, as regards the witnesses who came to give oral evidence, I am quite satisfied that they were all honest and straightforward people who were doing their best to assist the Court. There were some differences between them, primarily (perhaps even exclusively) in relation to their views as to the state of horsebox parking on 30 July 2011. In particular, Captain Michael Hunt, his wife Mrs Sallyann Greenwood-Hunt and Mrs Karen Young were critical to varying degrees of the amount of space which existed for horseboxes to manoeuvre, whilst other witnesses (notably Mr Lear himself as well as his wife, Mrs Jan Lear, and their son, Peter Lear) considered that there were no such problems. It is clear, however, that these differences were merely differences of recollection.

4

Mr Lear was, prior to his accident, somebody who earned his living by producing young horses and selling them as well as by building courses for show jumping and eventing competitions. He also did some training with both horses and riders. He operated as a sole trader and had done so for between 25 and 30 years, with his wife, Mrs Lear, acting as his accountant alongside her work as a strategic project manager for Mid Sussex District Council, in which capacity she carried out health and safety inspections at Hickstead (albeit not in relation to the parking arrangements). Mr and Mrs Lear's son, Peter, had worked with his father for about five years, up until the November before Mr Lear's accident, riding the horses and helping transport them to events. Sadly now, as a result of the accident, Mr Lear is unable to work and Mrs Lear, who has had to give up her job with the local authority, now acts as her husband's carer.

5

Hickstead is the owner of Hickstead Showground in West Sussex and, as such, the host of one of the world's leading equestrian events, the annual Longines Royal International Horse Show, which is held over a 6-day period each July – in 2011 between 26 and 31 July. The Longines Royal International Horse Show has been running for 23 years, now attracting about 2,500 competitors and in the region of 45,000 visitors, with something like 3,000 horseboxes and trailers coming on site during the course of the show and around a thousand being accommodated at any one time in various parking areas belonging to Hickstead. Mr Edward Bunn, who (alongside his sister, Lizzie Bunn) is Hickstead's joint Managing Director, having taken over from their father, Hickstead's founder, Mr Douglas Bunn, when he died in 2009, estimated that there would have been, on average, some 10,000–15,000 horsebox/trailer movements over the forty-three years during which he had been working at Hickstead (he started when he was just 12 years old) and so, in total, in excess of 600,000 movements. This includes, as I understand it, not only the Longines Royal International Horse Show, but also the three other events which take place each year at Hickstead, namely the Hickstead Derby Meeting which takes place in June, the Hurstpierpoint College National Schools and Pony Club Championships which take place in August, and the All England Jumping Championships which take place in September. It is, however, the Longines Royal International Horse Show and the Hickstead Derby Meeting which are the larger of the events.

6

WH is a company which was incorporated in 2006 when it was called JCB Security Ltd. It was set up by Mr Douglas Hinckley, a WH director and somebody who has lived at Hickstead alongside the Bunn family since a young age. Mr Hinckley had joined the police at the age of 18, before joining the army where he spent time in Iraq. After leaving the army, Mr Hinckley, who had assisted the Bunn family in running Hickstead events throughout his time in the police and in the army, during periods of leave, decided to build a business providing security and crowd management services to event organisers, recruiting as employees people with army or police experience. These services include car and horsebox parking services. Mr Hinckley explained that not only does WH provide such services to Hickstead (something which it has done each year since 2007) but the company does the same thing in relation to a number of other horse shows, including the Royal Windsor Horse Show and Blair Castle International Horse Trials in Scotland. Indeed, Mr Hinckley confirmed to Mr Tavares in cross-examination that he was not aware of any other company which, as he put it, managed more horse shows than WH has done: in the years leading up to 2011, managing the parking at 23 horse show events in 2009, and 33 events in 2010. JCB Security Ltd changed its name to WH in February 2013.

7

Turning now to the day of the accident, 30 July 2011, Mr Lear drove to Hickstead from home, which is only 15–20 minutes away. Mr Lear was alone and in his 18 tonne horsebox. This was originally a road freight transporter, but it had been converted to a horse transporter by a company called Gray Horseboxes and Race Homes UK Limited in about 2009. This included a modification in respect of the hydraulic system, the original vertical tail lift being changed so that it would lift a large pivoting ramp.

8

Mr Lear explained that he had two horses jumping that day: Doonaveeragh Amanda, which Mr Lear was himself going to ride and which Mr Lear had transported to the event in his horsebox; and Urlanmore Aldi, which was going to be ridden by a Mr Henry Turrell and which had been brought to the event by Mr Turrell in his horsebox. As to the competition in which Mr Lear was going to compete on Doonaveeragh Amanda, this was not going to take place until much later in the day because Mr Lear arrived shortly before midday (at about 11.55 am) and by the time of the accident he had still to compete. Indeed, Mrs Lear explained in her witness statement how, having arrived separately and by car about an hour after Mr Lear and having spent the afternoon spectating, she decided at some point after 4.00 pm "not to hang around" until about 6.00 pm when it looked as though her husband would be competing but to go home. It was at this stage that Mr Lear went and checked on his horsebox and had his accident, Mrs Lear having only just got home when she received a telephone call at about 4.45 pm to say that Mr Lear had been involved in an accident.

9

Arriving at Hickstead, as demonstrated by some CCTV footage which was shown to me, Mr Lear drove his horsebox to the...

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