Woman suing self-defence school for £40,000 as hamstring ‘ripped from bone’ by ‘aggressive’ trainer
(As reported in the Daily Mirror on the 8th June 2022 and you can read the news article here – https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woman-suing-self-defence-school-27178581)
This was in the news yesterday.
Fiona Hayes, 47, is suing her Muay Thai school after she had to undergo major surgery to repair “a complete avulsion of the three hamstring tendons” after a “light sparring session” with her coach Marcel Oladeinde-Adeyemi, who is a champion Muay Thai fighter.
She claims that during the session the trainer “aggressively” yanked her leg, which caused her knee to “pop”.
The injury is classified as a ‘serious injury’ because the hamstring tendon tears away from the bone, sometimes even taking piece of fractured bone with it.
The defendant (the school) is saying that the trainer performed the “routine technique” in a “controlled manner”.
However, the lawyer acting on behalf of Fiona Hayes has stated: “Hardly any force is needed to achieve this. If Mr Oladeinde-Adeyemi had exercised reasonable care and skill in carrying out the technique, he would not pull the leg aggressively as the claimant describes.”
She goes on to say: “Whilst the claimant accepts there is an element of risk, the injury of the kind and severity suffered is not one that would occur if reasonable care and skill were applied.”
The lawyer acting on behalf of the defendant (the school) denies any blame, saying: “In the circumstances of a Muay Thai class, during which physical contact between participants is accepted, the coach acted with adequate skill and care.”
He goes on to say: “The defendant’s coach did not perform a dangerous or reckless manoeuvre.”
It will be interesting to see where this case goes and I’ve been involved in similar civil cases as an expert witness in the past.
I was indirectly involved in a case many years ago that started off as a £28,000 claim for damages (which were not as serious as the one in this case).
The trainer in that case disputed the claim and (last I heard) the claimants claim for financial loss had increased to the sum of £400,000.
The Defendant’s Defence of ‘Volenti non fit injuria’
There is an argument that when you undertake certain activity, you accept the risk that goes with it (‘Volenti non fit injuria’).
However, that has to be balanced against whether the kind and severity of injury suffered is not one that would occur if reasonable care and skill were applied and whether or not the coach had exercised ‘reasonable care’ during the training session.
What the court will look at here will be the training processes, documentation, how the injured person’s medical/fitness was assessed, whether there was en existing similar past injury that hadn’t been disclosed, whether or not there was suitable supervision and care exercised and (possibly most importantly) whether or not the coach/club had a risk assessment in place for the activity and also the trainers knowledge and competence in areas such as how they have applied and complied with the various health & safety laws and regulations.
If some or all of this wasn’t in place or (in the case of a risk assessment) done to a suitable and sufficient standard, then the claimant may have a very strong case.
This is why on all of our physical skills trainer training courses (on our BTEC Level 3 Self-Defence Instructor Award Course and our BTEC Level 3 Restraint Instructor Award Course), we ensure that our processes and documentation are in place and that there is suitable standards of supervision in place.
And of course, everything is assessed thoroughly for risk in line with our risk assessment model and processes, and our risk assessments are doing by suitable qualified and competent people.
Below Are Some Questions and Answers Recently Taken From Social Media Threads On This Story …
Question: “What if there is a disclaimer clause in the membership application form that the student accepts all risks and indemnifies the instructor and the school from any liability…”
Answer: Disclaimers are not worth the paper they are written on. This blog post explains: ‘You Can’t Legislate For Negligence and Why ‘Disclaimers’ or ‘Waivers’ Are Not Really Worth The Paper That They Are Written On’
Question: “Unless the school has cctv covering the mats, I assume it will be one person’s word against the other unless it can be proved how much force was needed to cause the injury was deemed to be excessive.”
Answer: Whether or not excessive force was used isn’t the issue in a civil case for damages. The issue here is based on the ‘balance of probabilities’ (i.e did the coach take the action that caused the damage) and whether or not the coach took reasonable care or was negligent.
Question: “I would argue that at 47 she is not as flexible as she once was and more prone to injury due to age. Also I think maybe she wasn’t stretching enough.”
Answer: Hi [name redacted], you mention that “at 47 she is not as flexible as she once was and more prone to injury due to age. Also I think maybe she wasn’t stretching enough”. This is why getting students to complete a formal medical questionnaire to identify and physical issues etc., is so important. If any issues are highlighted then the coach/trainer has to take additional care under the legal duty of care owed to the student. We do this as standard on all of our physical skill courses and it helps us identify any areas of concern that we can address, monitor and supervise.
Comment by Mark ‘Bungy’ Williams
“I would ask for the documented audit trail of the instructor qualifications. Risk assessment qualifications; warm up routine, and qualifications to conduct a physical warm up conducive to the activities? My personal opinion is that if this can not be evidenced to the court, the injury was caused by lack of competence and documented qualifications.”
This is why we provide everyone who trains with us on our BTEC Level 3 Self-Defence Instructor Award Course and our BTEC Level 3 Restraint Instructor Award Course with all of the relevant training, advice, guidance and documentation you would need to run your training courses safely.