The Personal Injury Window – Royal Opera House Case Study

A decision of the Court of Appeal in early April this year involved two of my consuming interests – injury compensation and opera.

This happened when the Royal Opera House (ROH) lost its appeal against a High Court decision last year upholding the damages claim of a viola player who suffered acoustic shock injury during a rehearsal of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

The Claimant sued ROH for damages for his injury the symptoms of which included tinnitus, hyperacusis (perception of/sensitivity to sound) and dizziness.

The rehearsal in question was on the 1st September 2012. It appears that the Claimant was seated directly in front of the brass section of the orchestra and that the bell of a trumpet was immediately behind his right ear. The orchestra was large and the pit is said to have been cramped with little room between the musicians. The noise to which the Claimant was exposed to is said to have been roughly equivalent to that of a jet engine.

The Claimant’s hearing was irreversibly damaged.

It is believed that this is the first time an English Court has awarded damages for acoustic shock injury. It is also believed that ROH may be intending to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

I felt a little conflicted with this case. Naturally I fully believe, and will always advocate that someone should be compensated for an avoidable injury suffered in the workplace particularly where the effects are as they are here. However I am also a keen supporter of ROH and will remain so – on a lighter note I can safely say that the performance and rehearsal seats which I usually occupy are sufficiently distant from the orchestra pit to avoid any risk of injury to me!!

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