Gemma Collins, a member of the cast of The Only Way is Essex, has reportedly threatened to sue the BBC after falling down an open trap door while on stage at the Radio 1 Teen Awards in October.
Collins had been on stage to reveal the winner in the Teen Awards category of ‘Best TV Show’, where the winners rose through the trap door in the stage, before the incident happened. Directly afterwards, in a video posted on BBC Newsbeat’s Twitter page, Collins said that she was fine.
However, the latest news being reported by the BBC suggests that Collins has said she will be consulting a lawyer and that she hadn’t heard from the BBC about compensation or an apology.
The first point to make here is that just because an accident has occurred, it does not mean that the person in the accident is automatically entitled to compensation.
Secondly, who would Collins need to make a claim against? Radio 1 or the production company? Or even the owners of the event premises? This would depend on who had sufficient control over the area at the time the accident took place.
To prove that Collins' fall was the fault of someone else, she would need to be able to disprove that she was given instructions to avoid the trap door. There are several seemingly apparent obstacles to display why she may not be able to do this, including:
- It’s reported that Collins was told to stand at the side of the stage (accompanied by a photograph of her talking to a producer before she stepped onto the stage) which she did before the fall. This suggests that she was instructed to do this, otherwise it would make more sense for her to have been standing centre stage;
- The trap door was already open before she went on stage;
- The award winners came out of the trap door before she fell into it;
- This was the third award to be announced, so she could easily have seen others use the trap door before she even took to the stage.
It seems entirely possible that Collins was aware of the trap door and where it was before she fell through it. At the very least, it’s possible that she was not looking where she was going and/or had not listened to instructions, which makes her partly if not fully responsible for her fall.
Then there is the issue of injuries. If Collins' injuries aren’t severe enough to reach a level of compensation award over £1,000 then a court may consider it de minimis and not proportionate to how much it would cost to pursue a claim.
Based on the evidence before us to date, it is unlikely that Bray & Bray would pursue such a claim in light of the adverse evidence and we would advise her accordingly. We always want to help our clients but there is no point in giving clients false hope that they’re entitled to compensation when the evidence in law points to the opposite conclusion.
Having said that, in such accidents involving high-profile organisations such as the BBC, it’s a possibility that the BBC could make an unofficial payment to her to assist with her injuries and avoid further media attention.
Kelly Ferguson is a specialist personal injury lawyer based at Bray & Bray Solicitors’ Leicester head office.