A volunteer at a Church conference who was severely injured in a go-karting accident, and ultimately had her leg amputated, has had her damages award upheld on appeal, with the Supreme Court of Western Australia Court of Appeal dismissing the Church’s appeal and upholding the lower court finding of negligence.
On Saturday, 25 August 2012, Ms Ellen Dixon volunteered at a conference presented by the Apostolic Church Australia Limited at the Church's premises in Bunbury, taking photographs and video footage.
The conference was scheduled to start at 9.30 am and to go to 3.00 pm. During the 45-minute lunch break, the attendees and volunteers were able to participate in go-karting on a circuit set up in the car park of the Church's premises.
At lunchtime, Ms Dixon took her turn on the go-karts. The go-kart lost traction and started to spin and then slide. As the go-kart came out of the slide, it pointed straight at a tree on the western side of the track. The go-kart was still moving and Ms Dixon realised she had to stop. She instinctively slammed her right foot down to touch the brake, as she would in a car, but accidentally hit the accelerator instead. The go-kart ran straight into the tree.
Ms Dixon suffered a serious injury to her right leg, with her right foot almost severed and the ends of the tibula and fibula sticking out. She was airlifted by helicopter to Royal Perth Hospital, where she remained for weeks and underwent multiple surgeries. Almost two years after the accident, her leg was amputated below the knee.
Ms Dixon commenced proceedings in the District Court of Western Australia, in negligence and claimed damages. The primary judge found that the Church knew that at least some participants, including Ms Dixon, were potentially total novices in go-karting. It was foreseeable that a novice driver might lose control and not have the skills to right the situation. The Church was negligent in failing to carry out an adequate risk assessment, gave inadequate instructions, and failed to warn participants of potential risks.
The primary judge found in favour of Ms Dixon, with no reduction for contributory negligence.
The Church appealed. It argued that the primary erred in finding breach of duty and causation, and in finding no contributory negligence.
The court upheld some aspects of the Church's appeal as to liability, but ultimately would not interfere with the finding of liability.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the Church’s appeal: Apostolic Church Australia Limited v Dixon  WASCA 146.
For more information on the above contact Joe Bonura on (02) 4626 5077 or email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the CCH Australian Tort, Personal Injury, Health and Medical Law Tracker and is reproduced in full with permission from CCH, a division of Wolters Kluwer Australia: www.wolterskluwer.cch.com.au
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