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Tort - Occupiers Liability Cases II

Updated on June 28, 2017

In Grimes v Hawkins (2011) a young lady was invited by her friend, while her parents were away, to a party at her house. During the course of the party, the plaintiff used the swimming pool in the house. The plaintiff had used the pool before and was familiar with its depths. The plaintiff then decided to dive into the pool and because the depths of the pool were not sufficient the plaintiff’s head hit the bottom of the pool and as a result she suffered severe injuries to the spine. The plaintiff sued.

The court found for the defendant on the basis that the plaintiff had used the pool on previous occasions and was entirely familiar with its depths. Regardless of the fact that the plaintiff was a visitor that was invited, the question that was to be asked, in line with the dictum in the Calgarth 1927 was whether the pool was used for the purpose that it was intended? When someone is invited to use the facilities in the house, the invitation is extended on the basis that the facilities in question will be used in the way that they would ordinarily be used and not otherwise.

In Geary v JD Wetherspoon PLC (2011) the plaintiff, while on the defendant’ premises chose to slide down the bannister and as a result sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff sued. Applying the dictum in the Calgarth 1927 as per Scrutton L.J. – when a person is invited to use the staircase in the house they are not invited to slide down the banister. They are invited to use the staircase in the manner that it is normally used. This approach is sometimes called the common-sense approach. In this instance, the plaintiff (Geary v JD Wetherspoon PLC (2011)) was aware of the risk and chose to accept the risk and therefore the defendants were not liable.

Let’s go back momentarily to owners who keep Rottweilers and German Shepherds on their premises. They are fully aware of their pet’s temperament and in most instances, take more than adequate measures to ensure that the fencing around their house is secure.

In addition to that they also post warning signs to warn others that there a is a dog on the premises. Despite that there are some very strange people who lurk about and like nothing better than to meddle with the fences and poke their hand through the fences to aggravate the dog. Are the owners to be blamed if the dog bites their hand off? Hasn’t the stranger in this instance accepted the risk by his or her own volition?

In Moira Brown v Lakeland Ltd (2012) the plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell while using a staircase at the defendants shopping center. There were no handrails in place and adequate signs were not posted to inform visitors to the shopping center that there was an alternate route that they could use. The plaintiff sued on the grounds that had there been a handrail or had adequate signs been posted, the plaintiff would not have been injured.

The court held that all stairs were a risk and it is up to the user to ensure that they take reasonable care and precaution when using the facilities that are provided in shopping centers and other premises that are open to the public. The plaintiff was unsuccessful.

In John Dawson v Ruth Page (2012) we look at the duty that is owed by an occupier of a premises to visitors who have implied permission to be on the premises.

The plaintiff was a courier who had to deliver a package to the defendant’s house. Because the house was being renovated it looked rather disorganized and there were building materials in the way, the type one would associate to ordinary renovation or refurbishing works, that prevented easy access to the house. The plaintiff who was unable to locate the defendant, under normal circumstances the courier is obliged to first locate the person the parcel is addressed to, entered the premises and left a package at a convenient spot. On the way out the plaintiff slipped on a wet plank and was injured. The plaintiff sued.

The court, applying the common-sense approach, decided that it was the plaintiff’s failure to exercise due care and caution that had led to the injury as opposed to the defendant’s negligence. Once the plaintiff realized that the plank was wet, in most cases and instances, it would be fairly obvious, the plaintiff should not have used it as a crossing.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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