Trend sport bouldering: liability for accidents when climbing indoors is often unclear

Trend sport bouldering: liability for accidents when climbing indoors is often unclear

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Climbing in the hall: who is liable in the event of damage?

Bouldering is becoming increasingly popular in Germany. The climbing halls are often well filled, especially in bad weather. Due to the high number of practitioners, occasional accidents and injuries cannot be avoided. Who pays for the damage - the hall operator, the rope partner or do the victims pay the costs themselves? Cases of damages for indoor climbing are currently increasing, but liability is unclear in many cases.

The climbing halls in Germany are often jam-packed not only on rainy Sundays. And as with any sport, accidents happen. The injured are increasingly trying to sue someone for money - sometimes with, sometimes without chances.

More than 500 climbing halls in Germany

Well over half a million people climb in Germany - most of them in a hall. Around 500 such sports venues with their colorful grips and kicks have emerged across the country in just under 30 years. Indoor climbing is a comparatively low-risk sport, but the rapid increase in the number of people exercising has also increased the number of accidents. The courts are now also noticing this, because the question then quickly arises: Who is to blame - and who pays?

"It is basically the same as in other areas of life: the joy to pursue such matters in court has increased," explains mountain guide and lawyer Stefan Beulke. Especially people who primarily perceive climbing as a hip leisure activity would often be perplexed that they could injure themselves if they fell.

Climb at your own risk?

"When we go into the great outdoors, it is very clear to us: it is climbing at your own risk," said Christoph Ebert, chief prosecutor in Memmingen and member of the umbrella commission for law at the German Alpine Club (DAV), at a Bavarian law conference Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety in Munich. A climber who had been socialized according to the old tradition would hardly ever have thought of suing his rope partner - but it often looks different in the hall: «Today, misfortune and need are no longer accepted as fate. The idea is that there must be a person responsible for every mishap, »explains Ebert.

The operator is then happy to assume that the hall operator is liable. From a legal point of view, however, the only obligation is to provide a reasonable climbing wall with safety points and to take the necessary and reasonable precautions to prevent damage to the visitors. "But he does not have to look through the room like an eagle, whether they are climbing clean and the belay devices are being used correctly,"
emphasizes Ebert.

Hall operators are usually not liable

Ultimately, it's like in a swimming pool: there everyone can pay admission and go in whether they can swim or not. As long as the hall operator observes everything, e.g. regularly maintains the safety points and handles, he is not liable in the event of an incident. In Bavaria, for example, where it is estimated that around a third of all climbers live in Germany, there was only one accident in which the hall operator was found to be at fault.

Negligent rope partner

Can a climber sue his rope partner according to the motto: you should have kept me! There is a good chance that courts will see it that way. "Rope climbers are generally liable for slight negligence," emphasizes Ursula Gernbeck from the Munich I public prosecutor's office.

The conditions for this are formulated rather vaguely in the law - the "recognized rules of the respective sport" are decisive for the "care required in traffic", says Gernbeck. But there is no modified set of rules for indoor climbing. «The mere fact that the DAV has published a safety opinion somewhere is not sufficient. What is decisive is whether it has become a traffic standard, whether it is actually practiced. »

Based on this reasoning, judgments say that it is negligent, for example, not to secure the end of the rope to prevent it from slipping. The partner check, in which both climbers check each other to see whether the belt is closed and the rope is properly connected, is also considered a standard. The climber must also attach all safety points.

But what is completely irrelevant: whether someone has learned to climb or to secure in a course. "Teaching yourself is also okay," emphasizes Gernbeck. "The only question is whether you do it right."
(vb; source: Elke Richter, dpa)

Author and source information

Video: IFSC Climbing World Championships - Hachioji 2019 - LEAD Finals (August 2022).