Kott Gunning – A Timely Warning About Failure to Plan

Kott Gunning – A Timely Warning About Failure to Plan

The Dangers of Failing to Undertake Proper Risk Assessment
DIXON V APOSTOLIC CHURCH AUSTRALIA LIMITED [2017] WADC 88

On 25 August 2012 the Apostolic Church Australia Ltd held a spiritual growth conference for church members. The theme was “Accelerate” so the organisers set up some go-karting in the Church’s car park.

Ellen Dixon had volunteered to take photographs and video footage of the conference. During a lunch break she drove a go-kart for five or six laps without any incident, after receiving some basic instructions. She was later offered another drive and given the same instructions. This time, while driving, her go-kart lost traction and she started to spin. She tried to brake, but pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and drove into a tree. She was seriously injured with her right leg having to be amputated below the knee.

The parties agreed damages at an undisclosed sum, but the Church and Graeme Holman (one of the conference organisers) denied liability. The trial on liability came on before Her Honour Schoombee DCJ.

At trial there was no dispute the Church and Holman owed a duty of care to Dixon to take all reasonable steps to ensure the go-karting activity was safe for participating drivers. Her Honour concluded the Church and Holman breached that duty because of:

their failure to conduct a proper risk assessment;
their failure to recognise a problem caused by Dixon’s unfamiliarity with the brakes as she only had an automatic licence;
the absence of proper instructions with regard to the risk;
their failure to place barriers around the outer perimeter of the track; and
their decision to proceed with the activity although racing go-karts were not suitable for amateur drivers,

had all caused or contributed to Dixon’s injury.
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