A young Dorset man, Ben Ridd, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after a devastating powerboat accident during the Junior offshore National Championship Powerboat Race, organised by the Royal Yachting Association in Portland Harbour, Dorset in June 2005, when he was aged just 13 years old. He finally an award of £5.5 million in damages in November 2014.
Ben was left with severe brain damage, dysexecutive functioning and cognitive difficulties, disinhibition, speech and swallowing disorder, loss of facial and disabling weakness down the left side of his body after his accident. He sustained massive haemorrhaging in his brain, a broken collarbone and a T9 fracture to the spine and has been left with a considerable physical disabilities and neuropsychological injuries that he can never fully recover from.
Ben was navigating a power boat being driven by a 10 year old with limited racing experience when his boat ‘hooked’ as the young driver tried to make the first turn on the course, causing the boat to come to a complete halt. A boat directly behind Ben’s – again being driven by an inexperienced youngster, aged 11 years – went into the port side of Ben’s boat, overriding it and striking him hard on the head, fracturing his skull. Ben’s helmet was knocked off by the force of the collision. A paramedic was quickly on the scene administering CPR on the boat and Ben was then airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter to Dorchester Hospital and then transferred to the Wessex Neurological Centre at Southampton General Hospital where he lay in a coma for three weeks. He was finally discharged as an inpatient into his family’s care, on his birthday in October 2009.
Ben’s case was initially handled by local solicitors but was then transferred to Novum Law, experts in dealing with catastrophic and severe traumatic brain injuries in March 2009. Liability was denied and there had been limited progress made on the liability investigations, which were extremely complex and resulted in proceedings against 17 Defendants, to include the executive members of an unincorporated association, a number of individuals associated with the safety, organization and decision making of the sporting event itself and the RYA.
There were a number of defences advanced by the defendants asserting that the Claimant was not entitled to sue the unincorporated association and argued unsuccessfully that this was a club that no longer existed. There was an ongoing battle to obtain full and rightful disclosure from the Defendants, who only ever provided disclosure on a limited basis resulting in very protracted litigation. There was also evidence contained within MAIB investigations that suggested that recommendations in relation to this sport had been ignored.
Despite this, the defendant – the Royal Yachting Society – refused to admit liability for the serious accident for over 7 years, resulting in an inordinate amount of additional pressure on Ben and his family who had provided constant support since the accident. As there was no provision of interim funds until late 2012 there was a significant delay in him Ben receiving the vital therapy, rehabilitation, professional care and case management and neuropsychological support he so badly needed, following his initial period of rehabilitation. Prior to securing funds to implement a suitable care regime and after the initial 18 months when his mother gave up work to care for him, he spent a great deal of time on his own or engaged in very limited activities, resulting in a lack of structure and purpose to his life.
Kim Chamberlain, a Senior Associate at Novum Law with a specialist interest in sporting accidents and her team, succeeded in obtaining an admission of liability and in obtaining interim payments to fund Ben’s rehabilitation, independent living trial and his care and case management regime.
Kim Chamberlain said: “Achieving this award marks the beginning of a new chapter for Ben and his family; bringing to an end what has been an extraordinarily difficult nine and a half years for them all.
It has been a lengthy battle to obtain a just settlement for Ben who requires support and rehabilitation for the remainder of his life due to his catastrophic injuries. There have been constant challenges throughout the life of this case and it is regretful that the Royal Yachting Association refused, for over 7 years, to admit liability for this devastating powerboat accident.
Ben suffered serious life-threatening injuries and almost lost his life. That refusal to admit liability meant that for many years, Ben did not have access to the specialist therapies, rehabilitation and support he desperately needed to enable Ben and his family to move on with their lives, adding to the ordeal already faced by him and his family.
I am extremely pleased and reassured to know that Ben now has the security to meet his needs, allowing him to move forward and face the future with renewed confidence.”
Leanne Ridd, Ben’s Mum, commented: “Our son has demonstrated amazing fortitude and courage since his accident and amazed us all. He is determined to be as independent as his injuries allow him to be. With the assistance of his clinical team, he now volunteers at a local charity shop in Poole several times a week and is an avid Bournemouth FC fan attending many home and away games. He has maintained his passion for the water attempting water skiing and canoeing for the disabled and continues to go out with his Dad on powerboats, although sadly he will never be able to drive a boat again due to his physical and cognitive difficulties. He is keen to get involved in inspirational speaking to help others affected by brain injuries by talking about the challenges he’s faced and how he’s overcome them. We are just so proud of him!”