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White v Blackmore [1972] 3 WLR 296 Court of Appeal


Mr White was killed at a Jalopy car race due negligence in the way the safety ropes were set up. A car crashed into the ropes about 1/3 of a mile from the place where Mr White was standing. Consequently he was catapulted 20 foot in the air and died from the injuries received. Mr White was a driver in the race but at the time of the incident he was between races and standing close to his family. He had signed a competitors list which contained an exclusion clause. There was also a warning sign at the entrance to the grounds which stated that Jalopy racing is dangerous and the organisers accept no liability for any injury including death howsoever caused. The programme also contained a similar clause. His widow brought an action against the organiser of the event who defended on the grounds of volenti and that they had effectively excluded liability.

Held:

The defence of volenti was unsuccessful. Whilst it he may have been volens in relation to the risks inherent in Jalopy racing, he had not accepted the risk of the negligent construction of the ropes. However the defendant had successfully excluded liability (Lord Denning MR dissenting)



Lord Denning MR:

"The Act preserves the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria. It says in Section 2(5) that: "the common duty of care does not impose on an occupier any obligation to a visitor in respect of risks willingly accepted as his by the visitor".


No doubt the visitor takes on himself the risks inherent in motor racing, but he does not take on himself the risk of injury due to the defaults of the organisers. People go to race meetings to enjoy the sport. They like to see the competitors taking risks, but they do not like to take risks on themselves, even though it is a dangerous sport, they expect, and rightly expect, the organisers to erect proper barriers, to provide proper enclosures, and to do all that is reasonable to ensure their safety. If the organisers do everything that is reasonable, they are not liable if a racing car leaps the barriers and crashes into the crowd - see Hall v. Brooklands (1933) 1 K.B. 206. But, if the organisers fail to take reasonable precautions, they cannot excuse themselves from liability by invoking the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria: for the simple reason that the person injured or killed does not willingly accept the risks arising from their want of reasonable care, see Slater v. Clay Cross Co.(1956) 2 Q.B.20B; Wooldridge v. Summer (1963) 2 Q.B. at page 69; Nettleship v. Weston (1971) 2 Q.B. at page 201."
 
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