Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club [2003]

Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club

Case name & citation: Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club [2003] EWCA Civ 1575

  • Court and jurisdiction: Court of Appeal (Civil Division), England & Wales
  • Decided on: 07 November 2003
  • The bench of judges: Lord Justice Brooke, Lord Justice Waller, Lord Justice Clarke
  • Area of law: Occupier’s liability; contractors taking assistance of a helper

What is the case about?

Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club [2003] is a tort law case on occupiers’ liability. It says that checking insurance might be an important element when determining if an occupier has taken reasonable care in selecting contractors.

Facts of the case (Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club)

In November 1997, the defendant Cricket Club engaged a two-man stunt team named Chaos Encounter to perform a pyrotechnic show as part of a fund-raising event. Chaos Encounter had requested the claimant to assist them. A pair of mortars, which were metal tubes set into the ground and filled with petrol, were included in the display. Primers in the form of plastic bags filled with gunpowder were to be dropped into the mortars by the claimant. The intent was that the mortars would then be fired using an electric charge from a car battery operated by another member of the team and connected to the mortars through a wire. While the claimant was lowering one of the bags into the mortar, the contents of the tube exploded and caused him serious burns.

What was the issue?

Was the defendant Cricket Club liable for the injuries sustained by the claimant?

Judgment of the Court in Bottomley v Todmorden Cricket Club

The judge at first instance determined that the entire operation was extremely dangerous, that Chaos Encounter was an amateurish organization operating in a field that required the highest degree of professionalism if danger was to be avoided, and that the defendant Cricket Club had failed to exercise reasonable care in selecting them. Given the facts, the defendant was liable for the negligent system that Chaos Encounter had followed and which led to the claimant’s injuries. 

While addressing the appeal, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the club owed a relevant duty of care to the claimant. It was held that it is possible that an occupier might be held liable for the torts of an independent contractor if he failed to exercise reasonable care in satisfying himself that the contractor was competent and that the work was properly done. The club ought to have taken sufficient care to select competent and safe contractors for the conduct of the dangerous pyrotechnics display on its land and it had failed to do so. One of the reasons was the absence of public liability insurance. The occupier (club) had failed to check whether proper insurance was in place. Checking the contractor’s insurance was considered to be an important issue in judging the competence of the contractor in this case.

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