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Tetraplegic student loses law fight
A student at one of the UK's leading drama schools has lost his damages claim over end-of-term horseplay which left him tetraplegic.
Andrew Risk had reached the last day of his second year of a scenic arts degree at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, south east London, when he took a long run at a large paddling pool filled with water to a depth of about two-and-a-half feet and dived in, hitting his head on the ground.
Mr Risk, 25, of Shillingford, Oxfordshire, suffered immediate loss of sensation, was unable to move, and had to be supported by fellow students to enable him to breathe until he could be taken to hospital.
Now in a wheelchair and needing 24-hour care, he claimed his injury in June 2009 was caused by a breach of duty of care or negligence on the part of the college, which denied liability.
Today, Mr Justice Jay said that Mr Risk had not succeeded and, even if he had, he would have found him 75% to blame for the accident.
The judge, who refused permission to appeal, said that Mr Risk, who was not in court, acquitted himself throughout the trial at London's High Court with "complete honesty, integrity and decency".
"He accepted that this was a spur of the moment decision, and I consider that it was out of character, or more precisely that no one should be judged on the basis of one-off impulsive actions.
"On a human level, I regret the conclusion that I have reached, but to my mind the legal principles are clear and the weight of authority overwhelming."
The accident happened during a day of events organised by the students before the traditional summer ball.
Mr Risk had taken part in his first year and was on the 2009 committee with joint responsibility for organising the programme.
His counsel, Michael Soole QC, said there had been potentially dangerous horseplay with a similar pool the previous year and it c ould not be right, if there was an event involving diving into an inflatable pool, that the college could "shuffle off" responsibility to the students' union.
Arguing that the college should have carried out appropriate risk assessments or warned potential users of the pool, he added: "You can't say that, when they are 18, they are on their own as relates to duty of care."
But the judge said that the college did not owe a particular duty to protect the claimant from the risk he took.
On the facts of the case, it did not assume responsibility for Mr Risk's safety and his accident was not reasonably foreseeable.
He added that risk assessments and other measures would not have prevented an accident involving someone running towards the pool from 15 to 20 metres away and then propelling himself into it.
"As the witnesses at the scene have observed, this all happened so quickly."