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Wooldridge v Sumner [1963] 2 QB 43

The claimant was a photographer at a horse show. He was situated within the ring of the horse show and not behind the barriers where the spectators were housed. He was on a bench with a Miss Smallwood who was a director of the company which employed the Claimant. He had been taking little interest in the proceedings and was not experienced in regard to horses. During the competition, one of the horses, Work of Art owned by the Defendant, came galloping at great speed towards the bench where they were sitting. The Claimant took fright at the approach of the galloping horse and attempted unsuccessfully to pull Miss Smallwood off the bench. He stepped or fell back into the course of the horse which passed three or few feet behind the bench, and was knocked down. The Claimant brought an action in negligence arguing the rider had lost control of the horse and was going too fast. The defendant raised the defence of volenti non fit injuria.


There was no breach of duty so the Claimant's action failed. On the issue of volenti non fit injuria it was held that consent to the risk of injury was insufficient. There must be consent to the breach of duty in full knowledge of the nature and extent of the risk.

Diplock LJ:
"The maxim in English law presupposes a tortious act by the defendant. The consent that is relevant is not consent to the risk of injury but consent to the lack of reasonable care that may produce that riskā€¦ and requires on the part of the plaintiff at the time at which he gives his consent full knowledge of the nature and extent of the risk that he ran"
Back to lecture outline on volenti non fit injuria