June 2021


High Court to hear injured horse rider’s appeal

by Resolve Editor Kate Tilley

The High Court has agreed to hear an appeal for a woman who was catastrophically injured after falling from her horse while participating in a competitive campdraft.

She had previously unsuccessfully sued the event organiser in negligence and was unsuccessful on appeal. The case was reported in the December 2020 issue of Resolve.

On 16 April, High Court justices Gageler, Edelman and Gleeson granted special leave to appeal on two of the appeal grounds, the claim of negligence and the obvious risk defence (under s5L of the NSW Civil Liability Act 2002).

On 23 October 2020, the NSW Appeal Court had upheld a lower court ruling Emily Jade Rose Tapp was or should have been aware of the “obvious” potential for serious injury in what was a “dangerous recreational activity”.

In a majority decision, Justices Anthony Payne and John Basten said Ms Tapp’s agreement to sign a liability waver before competing in the Australian Bushmen's Campdraft and Rodeo Association Ltd (ABCRA) event on 8 January 2011 backed that conclusion.

Justice Lucy McCallum disagreed, saying Ms Tapp was only 19 when she was injured and teenagers were “less attuned to risks” that would be obvious to others.

The Appeal Court heard Ms Tapp sustained a spinal injury that left her in a wheelchair with T11 quadriplegia. She now competed in triathlons at the elite Paralympian level.

Ms Tapp’s barrister, David Jackson QC, told the High Court judges there was “uncontradicted evidence the horse slipped [because of] the condition of the ground, and that was a cause of the fall”. Evidence of “an unusual number” of falls in the hours before Ms Tapp’s fall was “damning”.

Mr Jackson argued the risk was not obvious to Ms Tapp because she had no knowledge of the prior falls.

Ms Tapp was competing in the campdraft competition at Ellerton, NSW, with her father Ben and sister Courtney. Her horse slipped and fell on the second day of the three-day event.

Campdrafting involves horse riders working cattle at speed in an arena setting and completing tasks, such as herding and guiding cattle around obstacles.

Tapp v Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Association Ltd [2021] HCATrans 74, 16/4/21

Tapp v Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Association Ltd [2020] NSWCA 263, 23/10/20

Tapp v Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft & Rodeo Association Ltd [2019] NSWSC 1506,  4/11/19


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