Wooldridge v Sumner and Another: CA 4 Jun 1962

The plaintiff photographer was injured when attending a show jumping competition at the White City Stadium. A horse caught him as it passed.
Held: The defendant’s appeal against the finding of negligence succeeded: ‘a competitor or player cannot in the normal case at least of competition or game rely on the maxim volenti non fit injuria in answer to a spectator’s claim, for there is no liability unless there is negligence and the spectator comes to witness skill and with the expectation that it will be exercised. But provided the competition or game is being performed within the rules and the requirement of the sport and by a person of adequate skill and competence the spectator does not expect his safety to be regarded by the participant.’
Danckwerts LJ said: ‘Mr. Holladay’s duty to his employer was to utilise the qualities of the horse so as to show it to the best advantage. This involved the horse going at a fast gallop. Decisions have to be taken in a split second and it is impossible for a rider, as it seems to me, in such circumstances to calculate every possible result in his mind. He could not possibly be expected to foresee that someone would jump out from the line of the bench into the track of the horse. Persons who stand so close to the scene of such events must take the risk of something going wrong in the ordinary course of the sport, and which is a risk incidental to it.’
Diplock LJ said: ‘A reasonable spectator attending voluntarily to witness any game or competition knows and presumably desires that a reasonable participant will concentrate his attention upon winning, and if the game or competition is a fast-moving one, will have to exercise his judgment and attempt to exert his skill in what, in the analogous context of contributory negligence, is sometimes called ‘the agony of the moment.’ If the participant does so concentrate his attention and consequently does exercise his judgment and attempt to exert his skill in circumstances of this kind which are inherent in the game or competition in which he is taking part, the question whether any mistake he makes amounts to a breach of duty to take reasonable care must take account of those circumstances.’
Sellers, Danckwerts, Diplock LJJ
[1962] EWCA Civ 3, [1962] 3 WLR 616, [1963] 2 QB 43, [1962] 2 All ER 978
England and Wales
CitedCleghorn v Oldham 1927
The court considered the liability of a golfer, not in the course of play, swinging a club and injuring a person standing by. . .
CitedHall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club CA 1933
The organisers of a racing circuit were not liable for personal injuries suffered when a racing car leapt the barriers and crashed into the crowd, having taken reasonable precautions to prevent such events.
Lord Justice Scrutton said: ‘What is . .
CitedO’Dowd v Frazer-Nash 1951
Mr. Justice McNair exonerated from blame the driver of a motor-car in a road race in Jersey who crashed at speed owing to a failure of brakes, killing the plaintiff’s husband. . .
CitedBolton v Stone HL 10-May-1951
The plaintiff was injured by a prodigious and unprecedented hit of a cricket ball over a distance of 100 yards. He claimed damages in negligence.
Held: When looking at the duty of care the court should ask whether the risk was not so remote . .
CitedBenmax v Austin Motor Co Ltd HL 1955
Except for cases which are expressly limited to questions of law, an appellant is entitled to appeal from the Court of Session to the House against any finding, whether it be a finding of law, a finding of fact or a finding involving both law and . .
CitedDonoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson HL 26-May-1932
Decomposed Snail in Drink – Liability
The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a . .
CitedOsborne v London and North Western Railway 1888
Wills J said: ‘If the defendants desire to succeed on the ground that the maxim volenti non fit injuria is applicable, they must obtain a finding of fact that the plaintiff freely and voluntarily, with full knowledge of the nature and extent of the . .
CitedAdmiralty Commissioners v SS Volute (Owners), The Volute HL 1921
When assessing negligence the court must ask whether it was ‘so much mixed up with the state of things brought about’ by the defendant that ‘in the ordinary plain common sense of this business’ it must be regarded as having contributed to the . .
CitedKelly v Farrans Ltd 1954
Lord MacDermott discussed the plea of volentia non fit injuria: ‘The question raised by a plea of volenti non fit iniuria is not whether the injured party consented to run the risk of being hurt, but whether the injured party consented to run that . .
CitedBourhill v Young’s Executor HL 5-Aug-1942
When considering claims for damages for shock, the court only recognised the action lying where the injury by shock was sustained ‘through the medium of the eye or the ear without direct contact.’ Wright L said: ‘No doubt, it has long ago been . .
CitedDann v Hamilton 1939
The maxim volenti non fit injuria, which originates from Roman law, is a notorious source of confusion. The court doubted whether the maxim ever could apply to license in advance a subsequent act of negligence, for if the consent precedes the act of . .
CitedLetang v Ottawa Electric Railway Co 1926
To accept a plea of non fit injuria, there has to be a finding that the plaintiff freely and voluntarily, with full knowledge of the nature and extent of the risk he ran, impliedly agreed to incur it. . .
CitedHaynes v Harwood CA 1935
The plaintiff, a policemen saw a horse running loose in the street among children. He ran out, chased it and caught it but was injured.
Held: The horseowner was liable. It was foreseeable that if a horse was let loose in a crowd, somebody, . .
CitedCutler v United Dairies CA 1933
A horse pulling one of the defendant’s vans was seen running loose without a driver. It left the roadway onto private land. The driver caught up and called for help. The plaintiff jumped into the field and was injured trying to restrain the horse. . .

Cited by:
CitedWhite v Blackmore CA 15-Jun-1972
The plaintiff attended a jalopy car race and was injured. It was a condition of his entry that he agreed that motor racing was dangerous and that he would not hold the organisers or others responsible if injured. He was injured when a safety rope, . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 May 2021; Ref: scu.262808