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BBC to pay presenter £1.6million in damages for injuries during role as ‘crash test dummy'


Jem Stansfield, 50, sustained life-changing injuries on set for the BBC show Bang Goes The Theory. He was left with brain damage and spinal injuries while working as a “crash test dummy” – and has been awarded the seven-figure sum following a High Court battle with the corporation.

The injuries were sustained during the filming of the popular science show, during which Mr Stansfield was strapped into a specially designed rig and catapulted along a track and into a metal pole to mimic the effect of hitting a lamp-post in a car.

From the incident, the inventor, who has a degree in aeronautics from Bristol University, said he suffered spine and brain injuries and has lost more than £3 million in potential future earnings.

Mr Stansfield’s damage claim was disputed by the BBC.

A trial at the High Court in London was overseen by Mrs Justice Yip earlier this year, with the ruling delivered on Friday.

She said that it was “astonishing” the BBC, who had been warned of the dangers, had allowed the experiment to proceed.

In her ruling Mrs Justice Yip said: “I have found that the claimant was caused injury to his brain, spine and audio-vestibular system in the crash tests.

“While none of the physical injuries were particularly severe, the combined effect together with a psychiatric reaction have caused a constellation of symptoms and problems which have produced a significant impairment in the claimant’s functioning.

“The effect has been to derail the claimant’s successful career in television as well as to restrict his enjoyment of life more generally.”

She said there would be judgment for Mr Stansfield in a sum exceeding £1.6million, with the exact figure standing at £1,617,286.20.

Mrs Justice Yip said the parties were in agreement that Mr Stansfield should recover “two-thirds of the damages assessed as being caused by injuries he sustained while carrying out the crash tests” aged 42.

She said: “There is strong evidence that prior to the crash tests he was an exceptionally fit man. Video footage from the time shows that he was slim but with strong musculature.

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“There are clips of him balancing and walking on his hands and scaling a building using vacuum gloves he created.

“In 2012, the BBC required him to undergo a physical assessment before undertaking a project involving a human powered aircraft, which he had designed.

“The results suggested he was performing at the level of a competitive athlete.”

Mrs Justice Yip said that Mr Stansfield was an engineer by background, and that his injuries occurred during a feature on the “relative safety of forward and rearward-facing child car seats”.

She said: “This claim arises out of the making of an episode of Bang Goes The Theory in which the claimant assumed the role of a human ‘crash test dummy’ for a feature about the relative safety of forward and rearward-facing child car seats.

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“During filming on February 8, 2013, the claimant conducted a series of crash tests.

“He was strapped into a rig like a go-cart which was propelled along a track into a post.

“In the introduction to the piece, the claimant explains that he had calculated the experiment to give a similar crash profile to hitting a lamppost in a real car in an urban environment.

“The crashes were performed forwards and backwards twice each. It is not in dispute, and perhaps not surprising, that the claimant suffered some injury.

“What is contentious is the extent of that injury and the consequences for the claimant.”

From the incident, Mr Stansfield said he had been left with a myriad of symptoms which had produced a significant decline in his health.

Mrs Justice Yip said the BBC contended that “little more than a moderate whiplash injury with depressive symptoms could properly be attributed to the crash tests, such as would give rise to only modest damages”.

Mrs Justice Yip added: “I must say that I find it astonishing that anyone thought that this exercise was a sensible idea.

“On his own account to camera, the claimant was simulating a road traffic collision of the sort that commonly causes injury.

“It might be thought that someone of his intelligence and scientific background might have appreciated the risk.

“Indeed, in the finished piece, he rather prosaically observes, ‘I wouldn’t recommend this’.

“Equally, there was evidence that the BBC had actively sought advice, been warned of the danger, yet allowed the experiment to proceed.”

The judge said she had “not been required to determine liability” for the injuries sustained by Mr Stansfield, as “that aspect of the case was resolved by agreement between the parties”.

She said: “They have agreed to share responsibility for the injuries and resultant losses flowing from the crash tests to the extent that the BBC will meet two-thirds of the claim.”

Following the ruling, the BBC said they have made “safety adjustments” following the 2013 incident.

A BBC spokesman said after the ruling: “We take the health and wellbeing of everyone who works for the BBC extremely seriously.

“We keep safety measures on set under constant review and we made adjustments following the incident in 2013.

“We acknowledge the court’s judgment in this complex case and wish Mr Stansfield the best for the future.”

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