Russ Garrett

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Health and Safety

Every time I get depressed about things being shut down because of “Health and Safety” and the compensation culture, I like to take time to read the judgment in Grimes vs Hawkins et al (2011) (pdf).

It’s a court case filed by an extremely unfortunate 18-year-old (Grimes) who ended up at a friend’s house late at night, misjudged a dive into the pool, shattered her spine, and ended up tetraplegic. Subsequently she sued the friend’s dad (Hawkins) and, rightfully, lost.

I’d encourage you to read it in full, because it’s probably one of the most reasonable, clearly-stated, sensible pieces of justice ever administered.

The pool was not unsafe for diving. I have no doubt that some mature adults faced with a group of young adults in high spirits, some of whom had had too much to drink, would send them all home rather than allow any of them into a swimming pool. But that is not to say that the duty owed to the claimant under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 required the defendant to put the pool out of bounds that night. The defendant was not required to adopt a paternalistic approach to his visitors, all of whom were adults, all of whom were making choices about their behaviour, exercising their free will.