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Royal Opera House loses appeal over damage caused to viola player’s hearing | UK News

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The Royal Opera House has lost its appeal against a landmark ruling over the damage caused to a viola player’s hearing due to loud music during a rehearsal.

Christopher Goldscheider suffered “acoustic shock” – a life-changing injury – after sitting in front of an 18-strong brass section at the Covent Garden venue in September 2012, despite wearing earplugs.

The 45-year-old musician, from Bedfordshire, was forced to retire from his profession and due to his symptoms, including sensitivity to noise, he is unable to look for other work.

His claim for lost earnings is almost £750,000.

Mr Goldscheider argued he had to give up playing or even listening to music and his lawyer said the injury has “seriously diminished his life in all significant respects”.

The musician sued the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation (RoH) and won his case after a judge found the foundation was in breach of a number of noise at work regulations.

The Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the Royal Opera House did not take reasonable steps to protect Christopher Goldscheider
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Judges ruled the Royal Opera House did not take reasonable steps to protect Mr Goldscheider

The foundation challenged the Court of Appeal, arguing it was “potentially highly damaging” and could have “disturbing implications” for live music in England and Wales.

RoH lawyers said the ruling failed to distinguish between the industrial noise of a factory and “one of the greatest artistic institutions in the world, for whom ‘noise’ was a product”.

But on Wednesday, the foundation’s appeal was rejected by three senior judges, who unanimously said the venue did not take reasonable steps to protect Mr Goldscheider.

Sir Brian Leveson said: “I simply do not accept that this cataclysmic scenario represents a proper understanding of the consequences of this decision.”

The Royal Opera House challenged the Court of Appeal, arguing the case could have 'disturbing implications' for live music in England and Wales
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The Royal Opera House challenged the Court of Appeal ruling

He claimed the problems which led to the 45-year-old’s injury were “all foreseeable and reasonably preventable”.

The judge added: “What the case does underline is the obligation placed on venues to comply with the requirements of the legislation.

“It emphasises that the risk of injury through noise is not removed if the noise – in the form of music – is the deliberate and desired objective rather than an unwanted by-product, as would be the case in relation to pneumatic machinery.

“The national and international reputation of the RoH is not and should not be affected by this judgment.”

Ruling in favour of Mr Goldscheider in March last year, Lady Justice Nicola Davies said there was a “clear factual and causal link” between the identified breaches of the regulations and the high level of noise which ensued at the rehearsal in the “cramped orchestra pit”.

Royal Opera House lawyers previously told the court that possible precautions would involve “very significant cost for a very limited gain”.

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