By JR on Saturday, August 06, 2011
Girl paralysed after diving into her friend’s swimming pool loses £6m damages claim after judge says owner 'didn’t need warning signs in his own home'
A teenager who was paralysed in a swimming accident at a late-night party lost her £6million compensation bid yesterday. Kylie Grimes was left paralysed from the chest down after hitting her head diving into a pool at a friend’s house when she was 18.
A High Court judge said she had suffered ‘catastrophic’ consequences from the misjudged dive, but ruled it would not be fair to allow her to sue the pool’s owner – her friend’s father – for £6million in compensation.
Mrs Justice Thirlwall said: ‘She was an adult. She did something which carried an obvious risk. She chose, voluntarily, to dive when, how and where she did, knowing the risks involved.’
Miss Grimes, now 23, hit the bottom of the pool with such force that she broke a vertebra below the base of her neck. She has lost the use of her arms and legs and is confined to a wheelchair. An ‘accomplished swimmer’ before the accident, she had drunk three or four small glasses of wine before the dive, but was not drunk.
Other teenagers at the party, at the home of businessman David Hawkins, were jumping and ‘bombing’ into the 30ft heated indoor pool, the High Court in London was told.
Mr Hawkins, who runs a forklift truck business, and his wife were not at home on the night of the party in August 2006. They had given permission for their 18-year-old daughter Katie to invite two friends to stay the night, and later said another two friends could stay. But around 20 teenagers ended up at the house in an exclusive area of Farnham, Surrey, after Miss Hawkins met up with friends from her sixth-form college at a nearby pub. Miss Hawkins insisted she had only invited five people she knew well and told the court: ‘Everyone else just turned up.’
Some of the youngsters had been drinking, and there was a ‘party atmosphere’ at the house, worth an estimated £1.5million.
The court heard that Miss Hawkins had handed a bikini top and tracksuit bottoms to Miss Grimes so she could go swimming.
The teenager, a keen horse rider and school athlete, swam for around 30 minutes before getting out, then re-entered the pool in a ‘shallow racing dive’. The judge said the dive must have been steeper than she thought, as she hit the bottom and immediately told friends her legs were not working properly.
Miss Grimes was taken to hospital but despite doctors’ efforts she was left tetraplegic. She can only move with the aid of a specialised wheelchair.
Miss Grimes sued Mr Hawkins claiming he was negligent because there were no signs warning against diving. Her lawyers said the combination of a teenage party and an unlocked swimming pool was ‘a recipe for disaster’.
But lawyers for Mr Hawkins said there was no legal requirement for such signs on a private pool and that other people, including his own teenage daughters, had dived there safely. Mrs Justice Thirlwall threw out the negligence claim, saying: ‘It would not be fair, just or reasonable.’
She said diving into a pool always carried an inherent danger, adding: ‘Every adult of normal intelligence knows it. The claimant in this case knew it.’
Miss Grimes has also launched legal proceedings against Frimley Park Hospital NHS Trust, which has admitted breach of duty over her treatment but denies that its actions made her injuries worse. That case has yet to be heard.