/ FFME sued for €1.2m re rock fall at Vingrau

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Mike Rhodes - on 08 Jan 2017
Whilst looking for the current restrictions at Vingrau (none) I came across this article regarding a recent tribunal decision against the FFME (equivalent of BMC)
Because the FFME has agreements with all landowners where climbing is practiced, under French civil code, they become liable for damage "caused" by the cliff.
In this case it seems as if a (one) rock fell and hit a climber causing damage which the FFME then had to pay for.

The FFME are obviously trying to get the law amended as, although their insurers have covered this claim, future premiums will no doubt go through the roof and membership fees will rise substantially.

I had never heard of this law and wondered if a similar thing applies to the UK.

I had always believed that if you used an outdoor climbing site, you took responsibility for your actions and that potential rock fall was just one of those risks that you had to accept.

You can understand why private land owners ban climbing on their sites.
Ron Rees Davies - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

The BMC make a very obvious effort to promote their "Participation Statement", clearly pointing out to everyone that injury and death are accepted risks when climbing.
The Ivanator - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

BMC membership does cover you for injury to Third parties - and as such is required at certain venues. Notably Cheddar Gorge South side where there is (despite measures to minimise the risk) still a chance of dropped/dislodged material causing injury or damage to property.
I believe through the participation statement the BMC passes personal liability to the individual climber.
jon on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

The FFME draw up a convention between private landowners, communes, equippers - all interested parties etc - and assume the responsibility themselves. So I guess that this situation is to be expected, though I don't know of other cases. Obviously they require that the equipping is done according to their norms and if it isn't then, as I understand it, they either refuse to get involved or they designate it as terrain d'aventure (I realise that this accident wasn't due to an equipment failure...) Exactly this has happened at a crag not far from here - it's fully equipped but hasn't been done in accordance with the FFME guidelines - and so there's a sign at the crag which defines it as terrain d'aventure. I'm guessing that in this case they will assume responsibility for things like rockfall but not for equipment failure - I'm speculating here...
Adrien - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Mike Rhodes:

Yeah there's a lot of talk about this at the moment. Some (many) people fear the FFME are increasingly focusing on competition climbing and neglecting rock climbing (especially with climbing going olympic), and will cancel those agreements signed with landowners. The FFME have replied it won't be the case, but they've also suspended the signing of new covenants in the meantime

The situation is tricky: if my understaning is correct, climbing isn't considered an extreme sport in French law (something which the FFME fought for back in... I don't know, the 80's maybe?), so it is assumed as a "safe" sport. Which is silly for many different reasons, starting with the intrinsic unpredictability of nature and rock quality. What is also ridiculous is the fact landowners are liable if somebody has a climbing accident on their land without them knowing they were there. A few years ago some idiot jumped off a rock in the Ardèche gorges, became quadriplegic, and his insurance company sued the landowner; I don't know if the company won though.

Everyone's wondering what will happen if and when the law changes in that regard: will personal insurance premiums skyrocket? Will popular sites be closed?

Interesting times ahead...

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