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We represented a Ms P. under a CFA concerning injuries she sustained in a parachute jump in 2009.
This was a first time jump for Ms P who was one of a group of fifteen or so first time jumpers attending a charity jump at a sky diving centre in the south of England in July 2009.
The sky diving centre required all the jumpers, including Ms P., to sign a contractual waiver of liability should they sustain personal injuries during the jump and a form confirming that she had attended a pre-jump briefing with the other jumpers shortly before their flight. The briefing lasted fifteen minutes at most which Ms P contended was too short for her to fully understand what she was letting herself in for. In particular, Ms P. was unsure how she should position her legs and feet on landing. She was unable to ask any further questions after the briefing and was told to refer her questions to her jumpmaster to whom she was to be harnessed when she made her jump. This proved to be impossible on account of the noise of the aircraft engines while they were in flight.
Nonetheless, Ms P. went ahead with the jump while harnessed to the jumpmaster. During the descent, Ms P found that the harness was so tight, she could hardly move her legs. While she was able to lift her knees up to her chest, she could not move her legs out in front of her so that the jumpmaster could take the full weight of the landing and thus prevent Ms P. from sustaining an injury. Unfortunately, Ms P. landed first with her feet touching the ground and she fractured her left ankle.
We obtained expert evidence from a parachuting expert whose opinion was that the initial briefing was too short and that it was absolutely vital for first time jumpers such as Ms P. to fully understand what was to be expected of them and that all of their questions must be answered, even if it leads to an extended briefing. He also considered that it was inappropriate for Ms P. to be referred to the jumpmaster for her further questions. Our enquiries with the expert also established that it would have been virtually impossible for Ms P. and the jumpmaster to communicate with each other during the jump because of the effect of air pressure on their eardrums. Thus, Ms P. could not point out to the jumpmaster that the tightness of the harness impeded her ability to move her feet and legs into the correct position. In those circumstances, the jumpmaster should have seen that Ms P’s feet & legs were not in the correct position and the accepted practice is for the jumpmaster to kick or punch the student so as to ensure that he/she moved her legs & feet accordingly, which did not happen here.
Following a period of intense correspondence with the defendant when liability was denied, the action was eventually compromised shortly after we put to the defendant that they had a duty to provide first time jumpers with information and advice concerning the incidence and severity of injuries that could be sustained on a first time jump, including by tandem, together with a structured account of all potential risks and the incidence of jump related injuries in order to aid their decision making process before making their jump.
The claim settled at £5500, albeit with a degree of contributory negligence with the defendant accepting that the disclaimer was contrary to the Unfair Contract terms Act 1977. What the case has clearly shown is that there would appear to be a plethora of sky diving companies making their services available to a host of first time jump scenarios and charging accordingly, but without ensuring that the jumpers, particularly first time jumpers, are adequately briefed prior to their jump.
Please see our sports injury’s page to for further types of claims.