The recent English case of Ahmed v MacLean has made it clear that instructors have a duty to assess the skills and capabilities of those that they are teaching.
Facts of the Case
In March 2012 Mr Ahmed, a forty-seven-year-old lawyer, signed up for beginners’ course in mountain biking. The course was run by the defendant, Mr MacLean. Mr Ahmed owned a mountain bike but had limited off road biking experience. He had never undertaken any previous instruction in relation to mountain biking. The course was aimed at novice bike riders and was described as “ideal for the complete novice or those wishing to progress their riding”.
Mr MacLean took the course participants out on some local tracks. They reached a downhill single track. There were two routes available in order to descend the slope. Mr MacLean demonstrated to the course participants how they should ride down the main route. Mr Ahmed attempted to ride down the main route but was unable to maintain his stability. He was advised by Mr MacLean to start further back in order to allow him to build up speed. As Mr Ahmed was descending the slope, his front wheel jammed on a mound of grass and he was thrown over the handlebars. Mr Ahmed landed on the ground at the bottom of the slope. He sustained serious spinal injuries as a result of this, rendering him paraplegic.
One of the main issues before the Court was whether Mr MacLean had carried out his tuition of Mr Ahmed with reasonable skill and care. The Court found that no assessment was undertaken by Mr MacLean in relation to Mr Ahmed’s abilities and experience before the course started. As a result of this the Court held that Mr MacLean had failed to carry out an adequate assessment of Mr Ahmed’s skill level and therefore, as a result, he did not provide tuition tailored to his capabilities. The Court found Mr MacLean liable for Mr Ahmed’s accident.
Mr MacLean argued that Mr Ahmed was at least partly responsible for the accident as he should have known that he was not capable of descending the slope safely but he failed to notify Mr MacLean of this. The Court held that the evidence showed that he did have difficulty during his initial attempt to descend the slope and that he should have raised his concerns with Mr MacLean instead of simply trying again. As a result of this Mr Ahmed was found twenty percent liable for his accident.
The facts of this case were highly important to the findings made by the Court. However, the judgement does make it clear that any instructors teaching a course have a duty to carry out a proper assessment of the skills and capabilities of those in the class. This will allow them to assess the specific risks that may arise as the course progresses. Once these risks are identified a structure should be put in place in order to ensure that these risks are minimised. It is clear however that there is also an onus on the student to make the instructor know if they are having difficulty with any of the instructions given.
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