Wooldridge v Sumner: CA 1963

A spectator was injured at a horse show.
Held: The court considered the defence of volenti non fit injuria: ‘The maxim in English law presupposes a tortious act by the defendant. The consent that is relevant is not consent to the risk of injury but consent to the lack of reasonable care that may produce that risk . . and requires on the part of the plaintiff at the time at which he gives his consent full knowledge of the nature and extent of the risk that he ran.’ A spectator has a special relationship with a competitor which varied with the nature and rules of the sport. A spectator accepted the risk of injury following mistakes of judgement and from lack of skill by and in competitors, up to the point where a participant showed a reckless disregard for his safety, or acted in a way calculated to risk injury.


Diplock LJ


[1963] 2 QB 43


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBlake v Galloway CA 25-Jun-2004
The claimant was injured whilst playing about with other members of his band throwing sticks at each other. The defendant appealed against a denial of his defence on non fit injuria.
Held: The horseplay in which the five youths were engaged . .
ApprovedHarrison v Vincent 1982
A sidecar passenger sued the motorcycle driver for injuries sustained during a race when he was unable to stop because he missed his gear and his brakes failed at the same time.
Held: The court approved the Wooldridge approach as the . .
CitedCaldwell v Maguire and Fitzgerald CA 27-Jun-2001
The claimant, a professional jockey, had been injured when he was unseated as a result of manoeuvres by two fellow jockeys. At trial the judge identified five principles: ‘[1] Each contestant in a lawful sporting contest (and in particular a race) . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 05 August 2022; Ref: scu.198414