Team GB athlete wins injury compensation claim against national governing body

Posted May 31, 2018.
Former British bobsleigh athlete Serita Shone has won her legal action against the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) following injuries she suffered whilst in training in 2011.

Shone, from Weymouth in Dorset, was bobsleigh training in Germany in October 2011. Following a high speed crash in which the high-speed sled she was sharing with driver Fiona Harrison overturned, trapping Shone beneath the sled, she broke her back. The athlete, who prior to her promising bobsleigh career competed for Team GB in the multi-event heptathlon discipline, managed to return to the sport but ultimately missed out on selection for Team GB at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Following retirement, Shone decided to make an injury compensation claim against the BBSA for failing to take suitable and adequate safety measures, in p articular in not allowing her to adjust the padding, foot pegs and handles on the sled as is common practice in the sport. Shone commented that the BBSA had used her as ‘cannon fodder’, having been encouraged to continue training in unsafe conditions without adequate preparation.

Responding to the Courts decision, a spokesperson for the BSA said:

"The BBSA are extremely disappointed by the judgement of His Honour Judge Richard Parkes QC at Swindon County Court dated 11th May 2018…Bobsleigh is one of the most dangerous Olympic Winter sports and there are significant rules and regulations to ensure athlete safety at all times" 

The BBSA added that it had acted in accordance with established international regulations and that it would continue to take a leading role in the safety and wellbeing of its athletes.
Following the decision, which will now see a significant award of damages and legal costs from the BBSA to the athlete, Shone commented that the decision had vindicated her belief that her safety wasn’t the BBSA’s top priority, saying:

"The findings of the judge confirm that had (coaches) listened to my worries and concerns about not being able to brace in the bobsleigh, I would not have been so seriously injured, and would not have had my career and aspirations so cruelly and painfully wrestled away." 

Shone’s lawyer added:

"Thankfully, the judge has now found in Serita's favour ruling that the BBSA was responsible for causing this accident. It is only the sheer determination and character of Serita which enabled her to make the remarkable recovery that she has."