Woman seeks $200,000 in whitewater rafting liability claim

Date: Feb 27, 2018

A woman has pursued a $200,000 public liability claim against a whitewater rafting company after she fell out of the raft during a course and fractured her right ankle.

The accident occurred when the woman participated in whitewater rafting with a group of friends in 2011. She signed a waiver and heard a 10-minute safety talk before participating.

Near the end of the course, she fell overboard and remained in the water until the raft reached a calmer area. The plaintiff only noticed her injury when she tried to walk on dry land.

Why was the woman pursuing compensation?

The plaintiff argued the firm was negligent in a number of ways, including failures to:

  • Give a proper instructional presentation of the dangers of whitewater rafting;
  • Employ competent staff;
  • Identify the plaintiff was in a position of danger;
  • Utilise safety ropes to help the plaintiff recover; and
  • Activate an emergency stop button that would halt water running through the course.

The woman’s friend acted as a witness to the day’s events and an associate professor provided expert testimony on her behalf.

Meanwhile, the whitewater rafting firm relied on the evidence of staff working on the day, including the guide who was present on the woman’s raft when she fell into the water.

The firm also referred to the Civil Liability Act 2002, which limits defendants’ responsibility if harm is suffered during dangerous recreational activities that hold obvious risks.

What did the judge decide?

Several important issues arose in the case, such as the length of time the plaintiff was in the water and how far from the end of the course she was at the time of the incident.

Judge David Russell said the plaintiff probably only spent approximately 20-30 seconds in the water and had not experienced hydraulic entrapment, which is where an individual is held down underwater by the current.

As such, he added it would be impractical for the guide or other employees to utilised safety ropes or the emergency stop button because the raft had reached calm waters relatively quickly after the accident.

Judge Russell also agreed that whitewater rafting is a dangerous recreational activity with an obvious risk of injury, which – when combined with the signed waiver – should have alerted the plaintiff to the hazards involved. He therefore dismissed her claim, although the option to appeal is available.

While the plaintiff was unsuccessful on this occasion, the case shows what factors are important in public liability claims and why it is so important to enlist the services of experienced personal injury lawyers.

Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers if you would like to discuss public liability claims with one of our expert team.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.