Teenage Trespasser Claim Fails

Article

01 June, 2015

Thomas Buckett (A Protected Party by his mother & Litigation Friend Amanda Buckett) v Staffordshire County Council (2015)QBD (Judge Main QC) 13/04/2015

The claimant, a 16 year old boy, sustained a severe head injury when he fell 15ft through a skylight whilst trespassing on the roof of a school building. The defendant was responsible for the school and its grounds, and was the occupier for the purposes of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 and the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984.

The court was asked to consider the likelihood of trespass on the school grounds, the ease of access to the flat roofs, and the school's approach to security and risk assessments.

The Court held that:

  • it was foreseeable that youths, would gain access to and trespass on the school grounds
  • there had been repeated, continuing and well recorded incidents of such trespass
  • there was relatively easy open access to the grounds and the evidence showed that youths often played football
  • once on those lower roofs, it was an easy journey onto the upper flat roofs and it was foreseeable that any trespasser seeking such access would come into close proximity with the skylights
  • it was foreseeable that such persons would climb onto the fencing and gain access to the diagonal brace, an obvious standing point.

Ultimately, however the Court found for the defendant. The claimant failed to establish that the duty under the 1984 Act was engaged and therefore the 1984 Act could not be relied on

The judge held that the skylights were obvious, not defective or in need of repair, and clearly not meant to be walked on. The defendant did not owe the claimant any duty to control that activity as a trespasser, even though the claimant's presence in the vicinity of the skylight ought reasonably to have been foreseen.

Had the judge found in the claimant's favour, he would have assessed the claimant as 50% to blame for his own injuries, as he "regarded his actions to be seriously potent and blameworthy".

Forbes comment

Significantly, what the defendant knew or ought to have known was not the key to establishing liability, the claim failed because the skylight/ roof was not dangerous due to things done or omitted to be done to it. The danger arose from the activity rather than from the state of the premises. For advice on the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 or any similar matters please contact Sarah Wilkinson on 01254 662831 or email sarah.wilkinson@forbessolicitors.co.uk

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