Who? Christopher Atkinson, solicitor and commercial litigation partner at Philip Ross in London.
Why is he in the news?: Represented solicitor Asif Ahmed, who sued mountain bike training instructor Leon MacLean after sustaining life-changing injuries during a beginners’ mountain bike course in 2012. MacLean denied negligence and breach of contract.
Handing down judgment this month, the High Court ruled that MacLean was ‘at least in part’ liable to Ahmed for the accident. Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said Ahmed was 20% responsible for what happened.
Baker acknowledged that the adverse findings in relation to MacLean’s tuition related to a course that took place four years ago. He said he was aware that, since the incident, MacLean has continued to provide mountain bike instruction and training, and has no reason to believe he has done so in anything but a satisfactory manner.
Thoughts on the case: ‘MIAS promote the safe and enjoyable promotion of mountain biking and MacLean had a training qualification from MIAS. Had the MIAS standards been followed by MacLean’s course, this accident would not have occurred. However, MacLean’s insurers sought to deny any liability on the basis that all mountain biking was inherently dangerous, and my client consented to the risk when he signed up to MacLean’s terms of business. The court decided this was not a valid defence. MacLean had not instructed my client in the skills he required for the steep descent that caused my client’s injuries.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘My great aunt was a career woman and encouraged me to focus on my career from an early age. I decided when I was 14 I wanted to be a solicitor because law affects everyone in some way at some point in their lives.’
Career high: ‘I have been a commercial litigation solicitor for over 30 years. I have had so many difficult cases it is impossible to pick out just one. Furthermore, I spent five years sitting as a part-time deputy district judge and have had the satisfaction of deciding a number of cases myself. Thus I appreciated the difficult role that the judge has to perform.’
Career low: ‘I think this is the decline in the court service in recent years. Many poor decisions have been made by successive governments. Instead of investing in IT to provide judges and the court service with proper resources to handle disputes promptly, successive governments have raised court fees to a level that deny the ordinary citizen recourse to the courts. The courts are now providing an inferior service in closing of local courts and have delays often of six weeks or more in preparing routine court documents.’