10 February, 2014
Forbes has recently successfully defended an Employers' Liability claim following an accident with a piece of work equipment.
The Claimant's case was that she had injured her finger when rolling a motorcycle tyre for a class of school children in the role of her employment as a teaching assistant.
It was alleged, inter alia, that the Defendant had failed to keep the work equipment safe for use.
Liability was denied by the Defendant throughout the claim on the basis that members of staff would regularly inspect the tyres before use and no defects were found with the tyres on at least two inspections post accident. In addition, no other incidents were ever reported.
The claim was strongly pursued by the Claimant however Forbes presented the court with witness statements from the Defendant's employees who also worked at the school. The witnesses were able to confirm that regular inspections were carried out on the tyres prior to use and it was normal practice for teachers to self inspect equipment, something the Claimant also agreed upon at Court.
Ultimately, the Trial Judge concluded that she was in no doubt that the Claimant had sustained an injury as she had seen various parties following the incident and she was very clear in her evidence how the injury had happened. The mechanism however was somewhat confusing.
The tyres were taken to the Court on the day of the trial and the Judge had the benefit of being able to inspect them herself which she did. The Judge found no obvious defect and she accepted that they were inspected twice following the incident, with the closest inspection in time following their retrieval from the playground.
The Judge also accepted that there was a regular scheme of checking the tyres and that was sufficient, despite not being documented, to discharge the Defendant's duty to ensure the equipment is in a safe state. The Judge also accepted that although it was possible a piece of metal or glass could have been temporarily embedded in the tyre, she was satisfied as to the inspection regime of the playground.
The Judge found the tyres to be in an efficient state, in working order and maintained and although she accepted the Claimant had sustained an injury, it remains a mystery as to what caused it. In any event, the Defendant had taken all reasonable steps undertaking daily and monthly inspections and that was sufficient to discharge the duty.
The Claimant's claim was dismissed with the Defendant being awarded their costs.
This case reminds us of the provision of strict liability and how the Defendant can discharge their duty of care if they can show that they have taken the reasonable steps to ensure the work equipment was safe for use.
Despite numerous allegations of negligence by the Claimant, the crux of this case came down to whether the Defendant had taken the steps to ensure the tyre was in kept in an efficient working order. Being in close contact with witnesses from the outset to ensure that detailed witness evidence can be obtained with the addition of holding a conference to discuss the case in depth contributed to the success.
For more information please contact Elizabeth Bower at our Blackburn office, Marsden House, 28-32 Wellington Street (St. Johns), Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 8DA.
Tel 01254 662831 or email: Elizabeth Bower