Comment: Tour de France: a risk perspective

Cyclist in Tour de France

With the Tour de France set to kick off in Yorkshire, what should insurers be aware of?

The Tour de France is the world’s largest annual sporting event, with a worldwide audience of 3.5 billion. The Grand Depart takes place in Leeds on 5 July, with two stages taking place in Yorkshire, travelling through the Yorkshire Dales and the historic City of York. It is expected there will be 15 million spectators along the route.

Given the scale and nature of the event, it is likely that businesses and landowners will seek to benefit from the significant number of visitors. They may hire out their land for camping and temporary car parks, given the planning amnesty provided by Local Authorities, thus alleviating the need to obtain planning permission.

Public liability and event liability insurance is likely to have been provided by insurers in these circumstances, so what are the potential claims that may arise – and how can these claims be defended?

A number of challenges and risks arise. Firstly, the legal duty owed by occupiers to ensure their visitors are reasonably safe means that those providing temporary sites for parking and camping are exposed to potential claims if visitors are injured on their premises.

It may be difficult to determine who is the ‘occupier’ in these circumstances. It is helpful to remember the test for the status of occupier is the degree of occupational control – the more control, the more likely they will be considered to be the occupier. The duty is subject to reasonableness – in the event of any claim the court will decide whether the occupier took sufficient steps to keep the visitor reasonably safe.

The court will look at the knowledge of any dangers and any warnings given and the physical state of the premises, such as lighting, signage and barriers.

Importance of assessments
Insurers will recall the case of Furmedge and other v Chester-le Street District Council and Others (2011). Liability was split 45% to the council and 55% to the organisers, when an inflatable structure at an art event broke free, leading to two fatalities. That case highlighted the importance of risk assessments.

It is essential, therefore, that insurers make sure their insureds can provide evidence of adequate risk assessments undertaken for any temporary sites, and that these assessments are obtained from any third-party organisers using the land in question.

In the context of providing temporary car parks and campsites, these are likely to be attended and managed, so duties may also extend to attendants of the car park if they are injured. Therefore, the safety of employees must also be carefully assessed.

There is also the risk of property damage. It will be important to check land being used has suitable drainage and is not known to flood. Walls and structures could be used by spectators to rest upon or to gain a better view, and landowners should ensure they check their premises to ensure there are no visible defects that may cause injury.

Organisers should also have measures in place for crowd control, emergency exits, fire safety, suitable signage and to check any electrical installations and lighting.

If a claim arises as a result of the organised events during the Tour de France, the key question will be whether the accident was caused by a lack of reasonable care. Landowners and businesses will not be expected to take precautions to prevent all accidents.

If any claims do arise, insurers should seek to highlight section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006, which provides that the court must take into account whether precautions taken against a risk would prevent a desirable activity from being undertaken. However, the social value of any event needs to be carefully assessed in order to justify any increased foreseeable risk.

Caroline Elson, associate solicitor and Janice Oxley, chartered legal executive - associate, Langleys Solicitors

This article was published in the 3 July edition of Post magazine.

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