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Reasonable care

18 August 2016

Beware of signs when skiing and ensure you are satisfied as to where it is safe to ski whether it is on water or at the snow this winter!

In Wyong vs. Shirt (1980) a landmark High Court negligence case, Mr Shirt was an inexperienced water skier and looked for deep water to ski on the Tuggerah Lake when he fell and struck his head. He suffered quadriplegic paralysis. His injury occurred because the water was too shallow for water skiing. The Wyong Council had erected a sign stating ‘deep water’ in the lake that actually marked the end of the deep-water zone, but Mr Shirt had believed that it marked the beginning of it.

Mr Shirt was successful because the High Court found the Council to have been negligent in placing the warning sign and it was reasonably foreseeable that injury could have occurred.

In another case about signposting a similar lesson can be learned.

In another High Court case of Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW v Dederer [2007] the RTA was responsible for the construction and management of the Forster-Tuncurry Bridge. In 2004, Mr Dederer who was aged 14 dived from the bridge, landed on a sandbar and became a partial paraplegic. The bridge was not designed for people to jump or dive into the water below, yet it was regularly used this way, even though diving was prohibited at the bridge and which was clearly sign posted as such. Mr Dederer had jumped from the bridge previously and lived in the area.

It was not in dispute that the RTA owed Mr Dederer a duty to take reasonable care for his safety, however his carelessness added to his injuries and the damages he was awarded originally were reduced considerably due to his contributory negligence.

The RTA appealed the decision and Mr Dederer was again successful in the Court of Appeal.

On further appeal to the High Court by the RTA, the Authority was finally successful. It was decided that although it was foreseeable that the injury may happen, it was unlikely as many people jumped from the bridge without injury.

Mr Dederer lost the case and had to pay the legal costs of the RTA.

The lesson here is not to jump from bridges when it is clearly signposted not to. It is dangerous, you can be seriously injured and there may be no legal recompense.

Author: Linda Alexander

This article is general information only and should not be relied on without obtaining further specific information.

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