Graham Anderson booked the ideal ski vacation, leaving his home in England to travel to the French resort of Puy St Vincent with his wife. Mr. Anderson undertook the responsible step of enrolling in ski lessons, but the lesson took a tragic turn which has left him in a wheelchair.
Mr. Anderson, crashed into a tree while skiing downhill off piste with the instructor Jerome Portejoie while on a Snowbizz holiday in 2004. As a result, the father of two is now a wheelchair-bound tetraplegic.
His case alleged that the tour operator ‘Snowbizz’ was in breach of the terms of the holiday contract or common law duty of care. Mr Anderson, sued the ski tour operators, Michel and Wendy Lyotier, who trade as Snowbizz, based in Maxey, Cambridgeshire, England. He alleged breach of duty, claiming the instructor Jerome Portejoie should not have taken him on the run, given his limited experience.
At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Foskett said Mr Portejoie had been negligent in that he should have realised that the short slope was “too much to ask” of Mr Anderson and was a “step too far”.
Mr Justice Foskett emphasised that there was no suggestion that Snowbizz was in any way at fault in the events that occurred. The Judge found that the instructor “took his eye off the ball on this particular occasion”.
But the judge offered some comfort to the ski instructor: “It may be of some comfort to Mr Portejoie to know that there are very many distinguished and ordinarily highly competent and conscientious doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, surveyors and the like who, on an isolated occasion in their lives, are found to have been negligent within the meaning of the law. He should look on this as one of those isolated occasions.”
The judge appeared to accept that Mr Portejoie was a very experienced ski instructor, concerned for the safety and well-being of his students.
In closing, the Judge urged skiers to take out adequate insurance cover that would provide substantial funds if permanent serious injury, including paralysis, should occur. Mr Anderson, who runs a printing business BGP in Plymouth, Devon, was not in court. Damages, expected to be more than a million pounds, will be assessed at a later date.