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Tort - Occupiers liability cases VIII

Updated on July 12, 2017

In Bottomley v Todmorden (2003) the defendants, a cricket club, organized a show and part of the show was a fireworks display. During the show, the contractors in charge of the fireworks display called upon the plaintiff to light one of the fireworks, a particularly large mortar and when the plaintiff set the mortar alight, it exploded and as a result the plaintiff sustained or incurred injuries. The plaintiff sued see Gwilliam v West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust (2002). The court held that an organizer was liable or accountable for not selecting a reasonably competent contractor.

Occupiers could at times employ others to carry out acts that are normally considered or deemed to be dangerous provided that the contractors that they employed to carry out the tasks or duties exercised due care and caution. The defendants were held to owe the plaintiff a duty of care.

In Atkins v Butlin’s Skyline Ltd (2005) the plaintiff was blind and he was holidaying with his wife and daughter at the time. The plaintiff entered a lift and when he had reached the correct floor, before he could completely walk out, the lift doors closed on him, injuring him in the arm and shoulders. The plaintiff sued. The court held that those who operated lifts and had other public amenities on their premises had to take into account the needs of people with disabilities.

In Maguire v Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (2006) the defendants operated a leisure center that had exercise machines for public use. The plaintiff was a paying visitor who used an exercise machine and because the machine was faulty or defective the plaintiff was injured.

The maintenance of the machine was contracted to a third party who was under a duty to ensure that the machines were in proper working order. The plaintiff sued. The court held that the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 imposed a common law duty and that there was an implied warranty that the machines could be safely used for the purposes that they were intended.

In Keown v Coventry Healthcare NHS Trust (2006) the plaintiff was playing on the grounds of a student accommodation owned by the defendants. The grounds were frequently used by members of the public to have access to a hospital. There were two fire escapes close to the accommodation one with bars on it and the other without.

The plaintiff, aged 11 at the time, climbed the fire escape in order to show his friends how it was done and while doing so slipped and fell and as a result, sustained severe injuries, including brain damage, which prompted him to commit various sexual offences see Meah v McCreamer (No. 1) (1985).

An action was brought in court for compensation. Does a fire escape constitute a premises? The court decided that fire escapes constituted a premises in the ordinary sense of the word.

The court also considered if it was possible to impose a duty with regards to children when no such duty would have been imposed on adults.

In Donoghue v Folkestone Properties Limited it was decided that A duty will only be imposed on a defendant with regards to a trespasser under s1(3) of the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 when it was reasonable to do so. In Swain v Natui Ram Puri (1996) the court considered the duty that was owed to a child trespasser and decided that a duty would only arise if under the circumstances it was reasonable to impose a duty. Could the defendants in the present case have anticipated that a 11-year-old boy would climb a fire escape in the manner that he did even if the defendants knew that the grounds were frequently used by children? The court held that the defendant was not liable.

In Siddorn v Patel and others (2007) the plaintiff was injured when she fell through a skylight while she was dancing on a garage roof. The plaintiff brought an action against her landlord under s(1)(3)(b) of the Occupiers Liability Act 1984. The garage though owned by her landlord was not a part of her tenancy and the landlord had never given the plaintiff any permission to be on the roof of his garage. The court had to once again consider the duty that was owed to a trespasser.

The court held that the risk of someone dancing on the roof of a garage was not something that was foreseeable and the roof was used in a manner or for purposes that it was not intended or supposed to be used. The defendant was held to be not liable.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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