From ‘Top Gear’ to ‘Jeremy Kyle’, TV is no stranger to the Courtroom when things go badly wrong in front of the camera. Today we learn that liability has been conceded by the BBC in Stansfield v the BBC.

The Independent reported this morning that TV presenter Jem Stansfield has commenced a £3.7 million claim against the Corporation after his “stellar” tv career was allegedly cut short after he sustained ‘disabling whiplash, brain damage, dizziness and psychological scarring’ in a bizarre incident where he, whilst dressed as a human ‘crash test dummy’ was catapulted into a makeshift lamppost at 16mph.

Before the incident, Stansfield was said to be “a little nervous”; “I’m forward-facing, I’m heading for a solid-steel bar. How bad can it be?”

It will not surprise the lawyers reading this to learn that the BBC has alleged that Stansfield’s claim should be discounted by reason of contributory negligence, more surprising perhaps is the fact they have now agreed to pay two-thirds of his claim.

Contributory negligence is a common feature in personal injury. Drivers and passengers who fail to wear a seatbelt routinely have their claims reduced by reason of ‘contrib’:

Froom v Butcher [1976] Q.B. 286 CA remains the good legal authority on the point. Lord Denning set out the basis upon which contributory negligence should be considered. He identified three situations:

  1. Cases where injury would have been avoided altogether if a seatbelt had been worn. In these cases, compensation would be reduced by 25%.
  2. Cases where injury would have been less severe if a seatbelt had been worn. In these cases, compensation would be reduced by 15%; and
  3. Cases in which wearing a seatbelt would have made no difference to the injuries suffered. There, compensation should not be reduced at all.

Whilst Stansfield should be commended for the fact, he would appear to have been firmly secured with a safety harness at all times; clearly, his own risk assessment (and that of the BBC) needed some further work.

Quantum is said to remain ‘firmly’ in dispute. One leading Barrister was overheard suggesting that the BBC are likely to robustly challenge the value of the claim: “Parties must be careful not to exaggerate the extent of their loss otherwise they may find themselves at the wrong end of a ‘fundamental dishonesty’ finding”.

Of course, no suggestion is made that Stansfield’s £3.7 million valuation is in any way ‘exaggerated’ or ‘dishonest’.  We all await the Court’s assessment of quantum in due course.

In other news…  Katie Price’s ex, Alex Reid was this week jailed for 8 weeks for contempt after being found guilty of “knowingly giving a false statement” in connection with a claim reportedly valued at £61,000 which he brought against insurer Axa.

Counsel for Axa argued, “The false statement was designed to bolster [Reid’s] chances of proving his claim on liability… and thereby of recovering some or all of his claim for damages.”

Mrs Justice Eady concluded that Reid had engaged in “a deliberate falsehood in which [he] stood to make significant financial gain.”

Written by Christopher Perry barrister at No5 Barrister’s Chambers.