MTB Instructor Sued For £4m

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It is being reported that solicitor Asif Ahmed is suing mountain bike instructor Leon MacLean for £4million in damages following an accident during a skills course which left Ahmed paralysed. Ahmed faces the rest of his life in a wheelchair following the accident on the trail ‘Barry Knows Best’ on Holmbury Hill, Surrey.

Mr Ahmed’s QC describes the 2012 crash as happening ‘during a descent described variously as a slope, gully, drop off or bombhole at part of the route known as Barry Knows Best’. The High Court heard that Ahmed went over the bars and landed on the front of his head, just above the forehead, after his front wheel jammed on ‘what looked like a clumpy, grassy piece of ground’.

Leon MacLean is accused of a ‘lazy form of teaching’, and that ‘his instruction on this occasion was woefully inadequate’, with Ahmed’s lawyers saying that ‘The accident occurred because of defective instruction and defective teaching’. MacLean denies this and his lawyers state that he put no pressure on his students to go beyond their safe limits. MacLean has also said that Ahmed rode down the ‘wrong part of the track’, and that on a second attempt ‘made exactly the same error’.

Ahmed’s QC claims that the instructor had ‘progressed the group too fast’, while MacLean says that Mr Ahmed ‘knew that he could walk when he wanted to’ and that ‘he was under no pressure to undertake anything which he thought was beyond him’, and that MacLean had ‘satisfied himself by the time they got to Barry Knows Best that they were ready for it’. The £79 course was aimed at riders wanted to tackle ‘technically demanding terrain in a safe and controlled manner’.

As Cedric Gracia’s crash video shows, life threatening and terrible accidents can happen on the most innocuous of trails. And as Red Bull Rampage shows us, they can also happen on insane trails. The risk is there, no matter what the trail, and when you get on your bike you accept it. You might mitigate it by wearing protection, or choosing trails within your capability, but the risk is there. The whole point of going on a skills course is to extend that capability – the instructor is there to help you learn the handling skills required, and to judge when you’re ready to push your limits. While we’re not going to comment on where fault may or may not lie in the case above, this does raise some interesting questions about responsibility and liability when it comes to mountain bike tuition.

Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (17)

    Pretty depressing story all round.

    responsibility for your own actions seems to be a thing of the past.

    Not good either way…. but I can’t help feeling that the injured party is pushing their luck slightly (well, massively)… as with the way of the world these days, you have a wee bump in your car and you get loads of calls from companies offering you the chance of big compensation regardless of how slight your injury is if they take on your case!! So if you have a major injury, it’s just the same but bigger compensation figures! For me personally, if I crash and injure myself (whether on a course or not) I think I’d be hard pushed to blame anyone else, unless some part of equipment supplied by them was maybe at fault…. but if it’s just the terrain and my lack of skills at fault I’m sorry but I have to hold myself accountable!… do we really want this type of thing coming in to our sport?

    I have to say I feel for the guy and understand his anger. I don’t believe however you can out the blame on the coach. No one held a gun to his head. It’s a risky sport (he states while typing with a very sore shoulder). It’s just tough poo I’m afraid.

    The guy who fell off is a solicitor and he seems to be playing up to the stereotype.

    This should be thrown out for just being plain ridiculous and the people bringing the case should be reprimanded for even entertaining the idea.
    Based on what they are trying to do I’m going to sue the state because my secondary school didn’t do a good enough job of educating me on how to become a billionaire.

    Seriously though, if they even come close to winning then sports tuition is going to get dumbed down, die out or get hugely expensive to pay for stupidity insurance.

    Why oh why aren’t people able to take responsibility for their own actions any more?

    I dont think many people will take take on the responsibility for their actions if there is a chance of a huge life changing insurance payout when they have had a huge life changing accident.

    I don’t think the information available allows a judgement to be made in the particular case, the two sides offer conflicting assertions about what has happened. The court will have to decide which account to accept. Similar cases have arisen in mountaineering instruction and guiding so there is caselaw for the lawyers to study.
    During the decades when I was training junior doctors I was teaching them how to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and risk: outdoor instructors are doing the same, and would gain from studying medical education.

    Simple answer, solictors and lawyers won’t be allowed to take part in any activity. They will just be allowed to sit at home and watch telly, that’s all.

    Martyn Aston proves that just because you injury is “life changing” doesn’t mean your life has to be changed for the worse……

    I feel for the guy, but I’m guessing he took responsibility for the decision to wear a helmet (and not back protection?), he also chose the speed he was travelling at, and to take part in the first place.

    The sooner personal responsibility for taking part in inherently risky activities is enshrined in law, the better.

    The line that ‘if you hurt yourself, you’ll sue me’ is also one that’s used by landowners to try and limit access.

    @hodge1365 I think so.

    For years, my friends and I have been wondering out loud how any official MTB facilities manage to get away with it these days, you can’t do many dangerous things these days without signing a disclaimer, wearing lots of kit, etc.

    This case is different, he was under instruction, not that I think he’s got a case, and certainly not for £4m. He must have found out the limit of the Guy’s liability insurance and gone from there.

    But I fear the day some ‘lawyered up’ idiot turns up at a trail centre, breaks a bone and sues the owner for a pile of cash for ‘negligence’. How long will official MTB venues last if they’re looking at a £10k pay out every time someone breaks a collar or something.

    I think that trail centre case is fairly well sorted. You’d have to show that the Trail Centre was negligent. This would be to do with signage and maintenance. People hurt themselves at trail centres all the time and don’t sue. I assume that this is because even the Ambulance chasers know that there is no case to answer.

    This case is a tough one. I think that saying saying I wouldn’t sue is a bit easy too easy. If you really needed life long care to get out of bed, wash go to the loo etc. for the next 50 years then that is quite a big thing to deal with and turn down help with.

    I hope there is no case to answer here. I hope the instructor was doing a good job and much harder that he cam prove that. Presumably the testimony of the others on the course will be crucial. I assume the injured party would have signed to say that he accepted the risk of serious injury? I’ve never had instruction

    Isn’t this the exact reason we all sign disclaimers before we do anything like this? Or are disclaimers not worth anything in reality?

    A disclaimer couldn’t absolve the instructor of blame if he was genuinely failing in his duty to the client.

    With Fatoldman on this one… please read the Judges report with an open mind first as it is a quest for the discovery of the truth before commenting further. Whilst it is easy to put yourself in the shoes of the coach as victim take a thought if you actually ended up quadriplegic after a cycling accident, what kind of life you would expect. Its easy to say before this you would take it on the chin but would you really be able once you have to think about paying your mortgage and any loans you took on expecting a healthy financially secure life when times were good. Here there are two strongly contradicting statements of case. It may be popular to knock judges these days but I encounter them on 3rd party claim issues often and I’ve never met a stupid one yet who did not apply appropriate tests and consideration of the facts put before him. Of course if he makes an error he leaves the case open for an appeal.

    Current article top advert for this one is … slater & Gordon Lawyers – accident compensation claim specialists… maybe the MTB mags like single track could support the fight back by blocking such adverts from appearing on the websites to influence the weak willed… after all reading these posts no-one here would dream of riding them up….

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