Collision on the Sea Point promenade: a photo, a runner and a mid-race clash cross the finish line in court

The Sea Point promenade in Cape Town is a popular place to walk, run and take photos.

PHOTO: Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images

  • A liability judgment cautioned about environmental awareness in popular public spaces.
  • It involved a collision between athlete Christine Kalmer, competing in a road race at Sea Point, and a woman taking a happy photo for someone.
  • The Western Cape High Court ruled that both were liable, but the athlete was less so when it came to quantifying the damages.

A judgment involving a woman knocked down by an athlete while doing a favor and taking a happy photo for someone on the Sea Point boardwalk tells a cautionary tale about accountability in public spaces at events.

This was after an elite athlete was held partly responsible for knocking down a woman and injuring her during one of the famous Spar women’s races along Cape Town’s waterfront on 6 April 2014.

The judges found that Kristine Kalmer and the late Jasmin Salie were responsible for the collision while Kalmer was in midair, but Kalmer less so.

On the day in question, Salie was at Sea Point Boardwalk for a walk when four women, who were about to leave for the playful walk also planned for the day, asked her to take their picture.

Salie backed up and took the shot, leaning against the railing after a group of elite runners followed by cameras passed, but turning the camera around, she and Kalmer collided. Salie fell and injured her hip, eventually having to undergo hip replacement surgery.

Salie died of causes unrelated to the crash, but her estate is pursuing its lawsuit against race organizers Western Province Athletics (WPA) and Kalmer.

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The case went to trial in 2020, and in March 2021, Salie’s claim was dismissed with costs. She was then denied an application for leave to appeal. The case was again brought before the Western Cape High Court by an order of the Supreme Court of Appeal issued on July 7, 2021.

The judgment features the Sea Point boardwalk, the lighthouse, the mini-putt-putt course along the course, and how its walkways and grassy spaces are used for strollers, dog walkers and picnics . They also noted that the race involving elite athletes comes with a cash prize.

However, a cautionary tale lay in the judgment when the court found that the late Salie and Kalmer were both responsible for the mid-race collision.

Salie did not testify, but one of the women whose photo she took said they at least once warned her that Kalmer was coming.

They claimed Kalmer told her to “Get out of my way” and shoved her aside, continuing the race without checking on Salie, but Kalmer denied shouting that.

She said she only focused on her running when she ran and looked at the ground as she pounded the pavement. After the collision, she continued to run.

The judges concluded that although both women were at fault for the collision, on a scale of damages, Salie was more liable than Kalmer as there would have been streamers and other activity indicating a race was underway.

The court also heard that the information packet given to race participants explained that, although there is a gathering along the route, it is also always open to pedestrians on race day.

“I am therefore of the opinion that Ms. Salie’s negligence was considerably greater than Ms. Kalmer’s negligence and I find that her contributory negligence should be assessed at 70%. Accordingly, her estate is entitled to recover no more than 30% of its proven damages from Ms. Kalmer,” Judge Pat Gamble wrote, with Justices Elizabeth Baartman and Nobahle Mangcu-Lockwood agreeing.

Western Province Athletics has been released from any liability.

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