Win on liability for trainee tree climber in fall from tree

In Macdonald v Myerscough College the claimant fell out of a tree from a height of about 10 metres as a result of his unclipping the karabiner which attached him to his climbing system. The claimant could provide no explanation for why he did this. As a result of the fall, he sustained a spinal cord injury. He brought a case against the college at which he was undergoing training to become a tree surgeon. His case was that the level of supervision he was provided with was insufficient.

At the end of a 3-day trial, Langstaff J held that the role of supervision included protecting the trainee from the unexpected. Whilst it could not have been anticipated that the claimant, who was by then competent to climb trees, would choose to unclip his climbing system, a careful supervisor should have noted that the claimant did not test his main climbing system 3 times, as its risk assessment demanded, before unclipping his other safely line. On this basis, the claimant succeeded. Given the claimant’s role in the accident, Langstaff J assessed contributory negligence at 65%.

Robert Weir QC appeared for the successful claimant, instructed by Irwin Mitchell (Manchester).

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