The judgment of 1 December 1999 by the Court of Cassation relates to the responsibility of organisers of sport events, and more precisely, to that of users of go-cart circuits. This responsibility was relied upon by a go-cart driver who suffered an accident on a circuit of this type.
The judgment is classic in its principle: the Court of Cassation rules that organisers of sport activities have to guarantee the security of participants. However, this security obligation is limited to an “obligation of means”. Thus, the organiser is only liable in case of defective means. Participants of this dangerous sport are supposed to have accepted its risks; that is why they cannot expect from the organiser to offer an absolute guarantee of safety. Moreover, as participants play an active role in the sport activity, they introduce an uncertain external factor into the organiser's security obligation: their own behaviour. The consequences are nevertheless potentially serious for the participant, because the participant is not entitled to compensation if the organiser cannot be proven to have been at fault. Only a very rigorous interpretation of the obligation of cautiousness and surveillance on the part of the organiser can avoid this result.
The judgment, being further proof of the difficulties arising from the distinction between obligation of means and obligation of result, is analysed in the following comments from the point of view of Austrian, Scottish and Spanish law.European Review of Private Law