Public liability – sporting event – obvious risk…

compensation law casenotes

…identification of risk – reasonable precautions

In February 2018, the plaintiff had arranged to compete in the Gold Coast Triathlon.

Due to weather and water conditions in the lead up to the triathlon, the event was changed to a ‘duathlon’ the day prior the race, meaning it only involved a run leg, a cycling leg and a further run leg.

As a consequence of the change in the event format, the method for releasing the various classes of para-athletes and able-bodied athletes was altered, which ultimately resulted in a length of time where para-athletes and able-bodied athletes were sharing the course.

Whilst undertaking her first run leg, the plaintiff was knocked to the ground by a para-athlete in a racing wheelchair, Mr Chaffey, who was on his final leg of the race and travelling at significant speed.


Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $1,073,530.27.


Identification of relevant risk

Counsel for the plaintiff defined the relevant risk of harm to be: “the risk of somebody in the position of the plaintiff suffering serious harm or even death as a consequence of a collision between a para-athlete in a wheelchair and an able-bodied athlete attributable to the fact that those parties are on the course concurrently.”


The defendant submitted that the risk be characterised much more broadly as: “the risk of a collision between an able-bodied athlete and a para-athlete in a wheelchair at some undefined point on the course, which is not in proximity to the start.”

Her Honour concluded that characterising the risk as submitted by the defendant would be too broad, and would fail to account for the fact that speed was a factor, and as such, her Honour considered the risk of harm was sufficiently raised on the plaintiff’s case.

Reasonable precautions

In considering section 9 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld), her Honour was satisfied that a reasonable person in the position of the defendant would have “identified those parts of the course which narrowed and where athletes were likely to bunch up and have erected barriers similar to those used to separate cyclists or witches’ hats with signs directing the athletes and para-athletes as to the side which they were to separate them, given the risks of collision in the circumstances outlined above”.

Her Honour therefore found the plaintiff had established that the defendant had breached its duty of care by not providing a barrier, either hard or soft. She further confirmed that her finding would have been the same had she considered the question of breach pursuant to common law principles.

This compensation law casenote appears courtesy of Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP), where the author, Jemma Barnard, is an Associate. As part of the firm’s commitment to providing ongoing legal education, TSP practitioners review relevant judgments and prepare case summaries for the legal profession. A free searchable catalogue of compensation law casenotes is available at (registration required). The full version of the judgments can be found at

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