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Darby v National Trust [2001] EWCA Civ 189 Court of Appeal

The claimant’s husband, Mr Darby, drowned in a pond owned by the National Trust (NT). The pond was one of five ponds in Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield. Two of the ponds were used for fishing and NT had taken steps to prevent the use of those ponds for swimming or paddling. However, with regards to the pond in which the fatality occurred, NT had done nothing to prevent visitors using the pond and it was common for visitors to use the pond for paddling and swimming during the warm summer months. On the day in question Mr Darby had been paddling with his children around the edge of the pond. He then swam to the middle to play a game he had often played whereby he would go under water and then bob up to the surface. However, he got into difficulty and drowned. The claimant argued that because of NT’s inactivity in preventing swimmers using the pond, both she and her husband had assumed the pond was safe for swimming.

Held:

NT was not liable. The risk to swimmers in the pond were perfectly obvious. There was no duty to warn of an obvious risk.
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