Wattleworth v Goodwood Road Racing Company Ltd & Ors, Court of Appeal - Queen's Bench Division, February 04, 2004, [2004] EWHC 140 (QB)

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Wattleworth v Goodwood Road Racing Company Ltd & Ors, Court of Appeal - Queen's Bench Division, February 04, 2004, [2004] EWHC 140 (QB)

Case No: HQ01X04617

Neutral Citation Number: [2004] EWHC 140 (QB)



Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: Wednesday 4th February 2004

Before :


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Between :

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Robert Glancy QC and Stephen Killalea (instructed by Hughmans) for the Claimant

Anthony Barker QC and Malcolm Duthie (instructed by Paris & Co) for the first Defendant.

Graham Eklund QC and Bruce Gardiner (instructed by Edwards Davies) for the second Defendant

Justin Fenwick QC and Prashant Popat (instructed by Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw) for the 3rd Defendant

Hearing dates :Wednesday 3rd - Friday 19th December 2003

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JudgmentMr Justice Davis :


1. On the morning of the 5th November 1998 Simon Wattleworth was driving his Austin Healey car on the Goodwood motor racing circuit. As he came out of the second part of a bend known as the Lavant bend he lost control of his car, collided with a tyre-fronted earth bank on the inside of the track and was killed.

2. These proceedings were commenced on the 2nd November 2001. By them, his widow, Ruth Wattleworth, suing on her own behalf and as administratrix of the estate of Mr Wattleworth, claims damages from one or more of the three Defendants. These are the Goodwood Road Racing Company Limited (``Goodwood'') the owners and operators of the circuit; the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association Limited (``the MSA''); and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (``the FIA''). It is alleged that Goodwood was in breach of the common duty of care owed by it to Mr Wattleworth under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957. It is alleged that the MSA and/or the FIA owed a duty of care in tort to users of the Goodwood circuit, including Mr Wattleworth. It is alleged that the death of Mr Wattleworth was caused by the breach of the duty of care on the part of one or more of the Defendants. In essence, the allegation is that the death of Mr Wattleworth was caused by allegedly negligent design or selection of the tyre structure fronting the bank at the relevant part of the Lavant bend. The MSA and the FIA deny that they owed any duty of care to Mr Wattleworth. All the Defendants deny that they in any event were in breach of any duty of care. Causation is also denied. In addition, defences of volenti and contributory negligence are raised.

3. The trial before me, which lasted some two and a half weeks, was confined to the issues of liability and causation. It was agreed that the issue of damages be left to a further hearing, depending on the outcome. A considerable amount of documentary evidence was placed before me. I also received evidence from a number of witnesses, including expert witnesses as to track safety, accident reconstruction and neurosurgery. In addition, I had the benefit of a view of the circuit (and including, in particular, an inspection of the Lavant bend), undertaken at the invitation of all the parties.

4. The background facts, as I find them to be, are as follows.

The Goodwood Circuit

5. The Goodwood circuit is a part of the Goodwood estate in Sussex. The estate is very extensive. There is a holding company (Goodwood Estate Company Limited) and various subsidiary companies through which the various operations on the estate are conducted.

6. The Goodwood motor racing circuit was originally established by the Ninth Duke of Richmond in 1948. It was used for motor racing between 1948 and 1966, when motor races as such were discontinued. The inside of the circuit is in fact laid out as an aerodrome, which remains in use.

7. From around 1991, the Earl of March (son of the Tenth Duke of Richmond) became actively involved in the various Goodwood companies. He had had a lifelong interest in motor racing (and had become President of the British Automobile Racing Club in 1991) and formed the idea of seeking to reopen the circuit as a motor racing circuit, albeit with its old ``feel''. In 1993 he inaugurated at the estate, although not on the circuit itself, what was known as ``the Festival of Speed''; and eventually in September 1998 an event, known as the Revival Meeting, which appeared on the International Racing Calendar, brought the circuit back into prominent use as a motor racing circuit: the racing being designed for historic or vintage cars. In addition, the circuit had in the meantime been used for training (with qualified instructors), testing and events known as ``sprints'' (involving timed laps); and the circuit was also hired out to companies or individuals or groups of individuals for what were known as ``track days'' - whereby individuals or groups of individuals could collectively drive around the track, albeit not by way of racing. The circuit itself was at the relevant times and is owned and o...

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