Your Client: Joanne Blanche Smith Our Client: Medicine Events C.I.C. Incident Date: 30 August 2020
We refer to your letter before claim dated 4 July 2022 (“your Letter of Claim”). This letter is a formal response to that letter and is set out in accordance with the Personal Injury Pre-Action Protocol (“the Pre-Action Protocol”).
In the interests of expediency and proportionality, we have not sought to address each paragraph & allegation in your Letter of Claim. For the avoidance of doubt, to the extent that we have not addressed any points in your Letter of Claim, that does not amount to acceptance by our clients of the same.
Please note that the correct identity of our client is Medicine Events C.I.C, whose registered address is Gore Farm House, Hannington, Swindon, England, SN6 7SZ. Our client is a community interest company which runs an annual festival in Berkshire. The festival centres on nature, peace, liberation, and cultural harmony. Any profits generated by the festival are donated to charitable organisations who support indigenous peoples across the globe each year following the festival.
Our client has limited assets. Our client has a policy of public liability insurance in place, but initial correspondence with the insurer confirms that indemnity will not be granted in respect of this matter.
Your Client’s Claim
Turning to the substance of your Letter of Claim, we can confirm that your client’s claim is disputed in its entirety.
In view of the complete absence of detail regarding the mechanics or cause of this incident, the accident description as set out in your Letter of Claim is wholly inadequate and in breach of Paragraph 5.3 of the Pre-Action Protocol. Nevertheless, our client’s contemporaneous records and the Director’s knowledge of the incident are sufficient to not only give a clear account of the incident, but also to clearly absolve our client of any liability.
It is admitted that, on 30 August 2020 at Medicine Festival, an incident occurred in which your client came into contact with fire and suffered burning injuries. However, it is clear that your client was entirely to blame for the incident and her resulting injuries.
Near the main stage of the festival, there was a small fire pit area in operation. The area was supervised by a fire marshal, with security staff and festival stewards also closely monitoring the area. On the evening of 30th August 2022, a number of patrons of the festival, including your client, began to gather close to the fire area. It appears that your client was attempting to orchestrate some kind of ceremony around the fire, unbeknownst to the event organisers. Security staff repeatedly asked that the individuals (including your client) move away from the fire and threatened to close the fire pit if they did not stand back. Initially, the security staff were ignored. Security staff then physically stood between the patrons and the fire, forcing them to move away.
This temporarily resolved the issue, but after around 15 minutes, the patrons again began to congregate and dance close to the fire. Again, your client was involved in this action. This time, a number of patrons had created a human-barrier around the fire pit to prevent security staff from gaining access to the fire. Your client was positioned within this human-barrier and continued to dance vigorously around the fire. Your client repeatedly ignored requests to move away from the fire.
At some point shortly after this human barrier was created, your client fell forward into the fire. Various accounts describe your client’s behaviour leading up to the incident as “trance like”, “vacant” and “like she’d been possessed”.
Your client is also suspected to have been under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs at the time of the incident, even though the festival is advertised as a ‘dry’ event, with no alcohol being sold at the venue. In the Patient Report Form prepared by the first aider who provided treatment to your client, it is noted that the patient (your client) had “drank alcohol and taken some substances would not say what had been taken.” Another eye-witness source describes that your client “appeared to be under the influence of something”.
Your allegations in respect of our client’s arrangements to monitor and control the risks in relation to fire are firmly disputed. Our client had in place a comprehensive site risk assessment document and also a specific fire risk assessment. The general risk assessment document specifically accounts for any risk posed by the fire pits. To mitigate this risk, the document confirms that “communal fire pits will be monitored and managed at all times”. A photograph taken of the fire pit in use at the festival shows a woman, the fire marshal, in a high-vis jacket stood over the fire. The procedures, provision of staff and risk assessments put in place by our client at the time were entirely adequate and adhered to all our times by our client.
The two risk assessments mentioned above have remained in place, unaltered, for the subsequent annual Medicine Festival events held in 2021 and 2022. There were no recorded incidents relating to fire at the festival in 2021 or 2022. The event has also been subject to numerous visits by local authority staff and on no occasion were any concerns raised regarding the fire pits, nor were any requests made to remedy the fire safety provisions .
Clearly, your client was the author of her own misfortune. It is reasonable to expect that adults are aware of the risks of fire and take appropriate personal care. You client, however, neglected to take sufficient care around the fire pit area and ignored the explicit warnings of the event staff. Her behaviour was erratic, and her judgement was likely impaired through the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
In addition, your client accepted in a voice recording (enclosed) that she had been “round that fire many times” and that she was “holding a ceremony for around 50 people”, “didn’t protect herself enough” and that “it wasn’t safe to do that”. Your client further admits that she “felt a ceremony was needed” and took “took it all upon [her]self” but in hindsight, it was “too much”. Your client appears to accept that she was entirely to blame.
It is noted that our client organised and promoted an auction in aid of your client following this incident. This should in no way be treated as an admission of liability on our client’s part. Our
client did not contribute financially towards the auction. The auction was organised as a display of the values of community and inclusion which our client seeks to promote through its festival.
Disclosure of Documents
We enclose the following documents, by way of disclosure: -
Medicine Festival Fire Risk Assessment (Undated)
Medicine Festival Fire Risk Assessment 2021
Medicine Festival Fire Risk Assessment 2022
Medicine Festival Site Risk Assessment (Undated)
Medicine Festival Site Risk Assessment 2021
Event management Plan Medicine Festival 2020
Screenshots of Social Media Posts (x3)
Photographs of fire pit (x2)
Voice message recorded by your client
Patient Report Form dated 30 August 2020
Event Log of Medicine Festival 2020
In light of the above, it is clear that your client has no discernible cause of action against our client. The accident, and her resulting injuries are entirely her own fault. Should your client proceed with this claim, it will be vigorously opposed. We will draw this correspondence to the attention of the Court should it become necessary.
We await confirmation that we may now close our file and that no further action will be taken against our client.