ACT Supreme Court awards $4.6m damages for jumping pillow spinal injury

21 February 2014
The ACT Supreme Court has today awarded a man $4.6 million compensation following a severe spinal injury sustained in 2009.

Ben Ackland, aged 26 is a national wheelchair rugby player and member of the NSW Gladiators team. He suffered a severe spinal injury after an incident on a jumping pillow and is now confined permanently to a wheelchair.

Ben was part way through his law/arts degree at the University of New England when in October 2009 he went on a mystery tour to Green Valley Farm at Tingha in North East NSW.

He and a group of fellow students took part in a range of activities at the Farm including using the jumping pillow. Ben attempted a backflip and fell awkwardly sustaining a severe spinal injury. He spent 6 months in hospital in Sydney and has had ongoing rehabilitation since then while completing his law degree.

His lawyer Andrew Finlay Maurice Blackburn consultant solicitor said: "The accident has had devastating consequences both for Ben's health and his future working life. He has at all times remained stoic and is a positive young man in spite of his significant disability.

"The amount awarded today reflects Ben's loss of the future earnings, past and future medical expenses and housing and other care costs he will need to incur for the rest of his life. Ben's prospects for obtaining work as a lawyer in Canberra are negligible. The Court found that signage alerting patrons was not on display at the time of the incident, and that the defendant failed in its duty of care to supervise patrons."

Ben said, "I am very pleased with the outcome today. I would like to thank my family who have provided an enormous amount of care and support since my accident. This decision will be an enormous step to supporting my independence now and in the future. It means a great deal to me."

In his judgment Justice Burns said: "On balance, I'm not persuaded that it would have been obvious to a reasonable person…that there was a risk of serious injury in attempting to perform a back somersault on the jumping pillow. The perception of risk of minor harm is not the equivalent of the perception of risk of a serious neck injury."

Justice Burns was satisfied that Green Valley Farm had breached its duty of care in that they were aware of the manufacturer's recommendation that "somersaults or inverted manoeuvres" on the jumping pillows should not be allowed.

The case went to a 14 day trial in the ACT Supreme Court before Justice Burns in 2013. 

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