September 22, 2015 | 2148 ViewsBoat thrill rider sprayed on disc thump

The Paradise Point outing in April 2010 was intended to give all staff who rolled up the thrill of an authentic jet boat ride on the Southport Broadwater, 14 passengers at a time.


Walter James and his wife boarded first and sat at the starboard end of the rear row.

Although the seats had “not much padding”, there was a bar in front of each seat for each riders to hold on to.

Powerful water rockets allows the New Zealand built vessel – which had been operated on the famous Shotover River – to perform aerobatic-like stunts beyond the capacity of propeller driven watercraft.

One such feat is a 360 degree spin conducted once the vessel is configured “on the plane” at about 30 kts that ends with the boat’s nose “buried” under water as its rear becomes airborne before it splashes back down.

The boat came in for the first spin “pretty fast” and as the stern reared up, so did Walter. When it crashed down, he did too. The result, a compression fracture to his thoracic spine with a debilitating whole person impairment diagnosed by Neurosurgeon Scott Campbell, of 28%.

His injury compensation claim alleged the injury was caused by the negligence of the driver by “operating the jet boat at an excessive speed”. The case also relied on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

While the court accepted that the jet boat “under the control and management of the defendant physically caused the injury,” it was not prepared to assume that its operation was thereby negligent.

The driver/operator – who was self represented  at the Southport trial – swore he “did what he does on every ride and that he has never known of any passenger being injured in this way before”.

Denying the suggestion that he was going too fast, had he been going slower – he claimed -the boat would not have been able to do the manoeuvre at all.

No contrary evidence was called and on that basis Judge John McGill ruled “there is no proper basis on the evidence on which I could conclude that the fact of the injury supports an inference of negligence on the ground of excessive speed”.

Equally likely in his view, were other possible explanations: some unexplained unusual factor caused the injury, despite reasonable care; or “his spine may have been unusually susceptible to injury, so that something harmless to others caused him a serious fracture”.

“I have no evidence which supports the conclusion that the hypothesis of negligence would outweigh the other two hypotheses,” said the court.

But even if excessive speed had been proven, Civil Liability Act s 9(1)(c) required – for proof of negligence – that a reasonable person in the position of the defendant would have performed the manoeuvre at a slower speed. There was no evidence to support such a conclusion.

Of interest, the absence of sufficient padding was not a pleaded particular of negligence and “all the particulars pleaded were concerned with the operation rather than the design of the vessel”.

For all those reasons, Mr James failed in his claim that otherwise would have netted the 66-yr-old, $170k.

James v Surfers Jet [2015] QDC 233 McGill SC DCJ 22/09/2015

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3 Responses

  1. CUSTANCE Sep 25, 2015 — Reply

    probably someone with existing damage trying to cash in, we had it all the time. low life scammers.
    people aren’t responsible for themselves any more – don’t have to be, as the employer and other companies, are guilty until proven innocent, by workcover and the other quasi government bodies that, by the way, aren’t responsible for themselves either!!!
    they wont offer advice on what will satisfy them as to an acceptable solution!! Gutless – that’s what they all are!!
    they wont put themselves in any situation that may mean they go home at the of the day and feel some concern! unlike the poor bloody employer that lies awake at night wondering what they’re going to find happening at the workplace tomorrow through no fault of their own!

    can go on for ages here if you wish.

    • John Oct 16, 2015 — Reply

      You wouldn’t be getting on a boat with a 28% whole person impairment compression fracture. This kind of injury would require immediate medical attention including medical imaging scans that would establish how recently the fractured occurred.

  2. John Oct 16, 2015 — Reply

    I’ve been on one of these boats. The driver’s seat has a shock absorber that moves a lot. None of the passengers have it though. This Plaintiff needed bone density scans, expert medical evidence about it and an ergonomist and boat designers reports about what kind of seats the passengers needed to be safe. Lack of reported previous injuries is something generally given far too much weight. Very few injuries or near injuries are ever reported if someone doesn’t actually make a claim.

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