“I became a quadriplegic while wakeskating because the boat driver was negligent.” Which case won?
Inexperienced wakeskater towed by boat on Tweed River
On the 18th of November 2007, a man who intended to go wakeskating met a boat driver at a wharf on the Tweed River, in northern NSW, where a boat was moored.
It was intended that the boat driver would drive the boat, along with an observer, while the man would be towed behind, either on a wakeboard or a wakeskate. (In wakeboarding the rider’s feet are attached to the board, whereas in wakeskating they are not.)
The man was initially towed behind the boat on a wakeboard. He got up on the wakeboard several times, falling off twice. The boat was then stopped and the man switched from a wakeboard to a wakeskate. The man had never wakeskated before.
Wakeskater suffers spinal cord injury after falling
The man attempted to get on the wakeskate twice, but fell almost immediately on each attempt. On the third attempt the man had moved between 15 to 100 metres on the wakeskate when he fell forwards, falling into the water headfirst. As a result he suffered C6 tetraplegia, a spinal cord injury which left him a quadriplegic.
Bystanders came to the aid of the man and attempted to bring him to the surface. An ambulance was called.
The man did not have any memory of what occurred immediately after the fall. He could recall there were people who were standing in the water assisting him and that the person nearest to him had water up to his belly button.
A witness who was 12 years old at the time of the incident gave evidence that he saw the accident and its aftermath. He said that the water was waist deep where the man fell and denied that the man had moved in the water or had been moved by anyone else.
Wakeskater takes legal action against boat driver
The wakeskater sued the driver of the boat which was towing him, claiming it had been driven negligently outside the navigation channel into dangerously shallow water, causing the catastrophic injury which he suffered. The boat driver denied negligence.
It was up to the court to decide whether the boat driver was indeed negligent and liable to pay damages to the wakeskater.