In an important ruling on the legal liabilities of unincorporated associations, a judge has refused to strike out an injured paraglider’s claim against a sports club of which he was himself a member.
Symon Petrou suffered spinal fractures in a mid-air collision in October 2009. He was coming in to land when his foot came into contact with the wing tip of another glider when he was about 15 feet from the ground.
He had to wear a stabilising brace for around eight months after the accident and is still dogged by severe pain. He suffers from lack of sensation, reduced mobility and acute fatigue after walking a few hundred yards.
Mr Petrou is suing the novice pilot of the other glider involved as well as James Dell and Gary Cooper, in their capacity as the then Chairman and Safety Officer of the Dunstable Hang-Gliding and Paragliding Club.
Mr Dell and Mr Cooper argued during a preliminary hearing at the High Court that the representative claim against them could not succeed as the club is an unincorporated association with no legal identity of its own.
Seeking an order striking out Mr Petrou’s damages claim against them, their lawyers also questioned whether he was entitled to sue representatives of a club of which he was a member at the time.
However, refusing the application, Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: ‘I have concluded there are reasonable grounds for believing that is one of those cases which requires a full investigation into the facts to avoid the risk of summary justice’.
The decision means that Mr Petrou's damages claim will now go ahead to a full hearing, unless settlement terms are agreed. All defendants in the case deny liability for the accident.