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Tort - Occupiers liability cases V

Updated on July 5, 2017

In Glasgow Corporation v Taylor (1922) the defendants owned a botanical garden that was open to the public. One of the visitors, a young boy aged 7 ate some of the berries that grew on one of the shrubs that were on display and subsequently died as a result. The parents sued. The court held that the defendants, the owners and operators of the botanical garden were liable and that they had failed to take adequate steps or measures to protect children from harm that was foreseeable.

Children especially those who grow up in the country or in regional areas, where berry shrubs grow in the wild, are prone to plucking berries off shrubs and eating them and it’s fairly obvious that a child aged 7 would not be able to distinguish between berries that were edible and berries that were not. The council was held to be liable, see also Harris v Birkenhead (1976).

In Videan v British Transport Commission (1963) a 6-year boy somehow managed to make his way on to a railway track and his father the stationmaster attempted to rescue him and was killed while trying to do so. He however managed to save the boy.

His estate sued for his death and for the injuries and mental distress that his son suffered. The court held that the estate was entitled to claim for the father’s death but was not entitled to claim for the injuries and mental distress of the son. The court decided that the child was a trespasser and therefore was not entitled to be compensated, see also Robert Addie v Dumbreck (1929).

In British Railways Board v Herrington (1972) a 6-year-old boy made his way through a part of a fence that was pushed down which was normally used as a short cut to the railway station and was electrocuted. The parents sued.

If the rule in Robert Addie v Dumbreck (1929), Edward v Railway Executive (1952) and Videan v British Transport Commission (1963) had been strictly applied the parents would not have been granted any compensation because the boy was a trespasser and did not have an implied license to be on the track but the court was prepared to depart from the previous decisions and the parents were successful.

Clearly there has to be a line drawn somewhere, in accidents involving children, to determine how much of the blame is to be attributed to the parents and how much of the blame is to be attributed to the respective authority.

In Simkiss v Rhondda BC (1983) a father left his children to play around or close to a mound of earth. The children subsequently climbed on to the mound and fell off and were injured as a result. The father brought an action against the council and claimed damages for the injuries sustained. The court applying the common-sense approach denied the father’s claim on the grounds that children should not be left unattended and unaccompanied see also Bourne Leisure Ltd v Marsden (2009) and Michael Leonard v The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (2014).

In Salmon v Seafarer Restaurants (1983) we examine the duty that is owed to a fireman with regards to occupiers liability. The defendant was the owner of a fish and chips shop and one night before he closed for the day he forgot to turn off the fire on his stove and as a result the fire spread to the rest of the building and the fire brigade had to be called in to put it out.

The plaintiff was a fireman who was on a ladder and as a result of an explosion that occurred because of the fire was thrown to the ground and thereby sustained injuries. The plaintiff sued. The defendant argued that as per s2(3)(b) of the Occupiers Liabilities Act 1957 he should not be held accountable or liable. S2(3)(b) states that “an occupier may expect that a person, in the exercise of his calling, will appreciate and guard against any special risks ordinarily incident to it, so far as the occupier leaves him free to do so”.

The court held that the defendant was liable. The duty owed to a fireman was similar to a duty that was owed in negligence. Does a ladder constitute a premises for the purposes of the Occupiers Liabilities Act 1957? It would appear so. In Wheeler v Copas (1981) it was held that a ladder could constitute a premises.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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