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White v Blackmore [1972] 2 QB 651

Occupiers’ liability; effect of warning notices purporting to exclude liability for accidents

Facts

Mr White was a jalopy driver attending a race as a competitor. After competing, he returned with his family to watch another race as a spectator. At the entrance to the premises and within the programme, there were warning notices purporting to exclude liability for accidents, however caused. Mr White was standing beside the spectator’s rope when a car’s wheel became entangled in the rope. Mr White was thrown into the air and died from his injuries. Mrs White claimed damages in negligence and for breach of s2 Occupier’s Liability Act 1957.

Issues

The organisers argued that Mr White was fully aware of the risks of jalopy racing and of being a spectator at jalopy races and they, therefore, contended that the defence of volenti non fit injuria applied. They claimed they had taken reasonable steps to bring the exclusion of liability to the spectators’ attention. They argued they were perfectly entitled to exclude liability for accidents under s2(1) Occupier’s Liability Act 1957. Mrs White claimed the defence did not apply because her husband could not have known of the nature and extent of the risk of harm stemming from the negligent way the ropes were set up. She also argued the notices were ineffective in excluding liability for negligence.

Held

Mrs White’s claim was unsuccessful. The defence of volenti non fit injuria did not apply because Mr White could not be said to have had full knowledge of the extent of the risk of harm. The notices were, however, effective in excluding liability for his death. They had taken care to bring the exclusion to the spectator’s attention and they were entitled to exclude their duty of care under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957.


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