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BBC presenter injured while playing ‘crash test dummy’ for TV show awarded £1.6m damages

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TV presenter Jeremy Stansfield has been awarded £1.6 million in damages by the High Court after he was hurt while filming a science programme on the BBC.

Stansfield, 50, was playing the role of a “crash test dummy” during the BBC programme Bang Goes The Theory in 2013 and was injured while carrying out “crash tests” in a specially designed “rig”.

He said he suffered spine and brain injures and lost more than £3 million in potential future earnings, but the BBC disputed the damages claim.

Mrs Justice Yip delivered his ruling on Friday after a trial earlier this year and said: “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 Stansfield in the sum of £1,617,286.20.

Mrs Justice Yip added the parties have agreed that Stansfield should recover “two-thirds of the damages assessed as being caused by injuries he sustained when carrying out the crash tests”.

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“There is strong evidence that prior to the crash tests he was an exceptionally fit man,” she said.

“Video footage from the time shows that he was slim but with strong musculature.

“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.”

Stansfield was filming an episode of Bang Goes The Theory, where he was playing the role of a human “crash test dummy”.

The judge explained that 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.”

Stansfield said he had been left with a constellation of symptoms that 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”.

She 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.

A spokesperson from the BBC said: “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.”