05 April, 2016
Smith v Co-operative Group Ltd
Warrington County Court - DDJ Holligan
The Claimant visited a store owned by the Defendant. He alleged that as he approached the automatic door at the entrance to the store that the door failed to open properly. The Claimant walked into the door just after it had started to open and sustained facial injuries.
It was claimed that the door was faulty and that the Defendant had failed to adopt an adequate system of inspection, testing, maintenance and repair.
Liability was disputed on the basis that the Claimant was the author of his own misfortune and had walked into the door at pace without allowing it to open first. The door was subject to a weekly check by the store manager. The weekly check occurred on the morning of the accident and the door was found to be in full working order. The door was also subject to routine maintenance by contractors who had last inspected the door only two months prior to the accident and found that it was in proper working order. The same contractors attended the store after the incident but could find nothing wrong with the door. Furthermore, the local authority investigated the incident and found that there was good signage on the door.
At trial the Defendant's store manager gave evidence regarding the inspection and maintenance system. The Judge also had the benefit of the CCTV footage.
The Judge found that the door was not defective, there was a system of inspection in place and it was therefore not a reasonably foreseeable danger. The judge also placed great reliance on the conclusions of the local authority investigation. The claim was dismissed with the judge questioning what more the Defendant could have done.
We are delighted with the outcome of this case, although the CCTV evidence confirmed that the Claimant came into contact with the door, the Defendant was able to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it had taken reasonable care. An occupier is not under a duty to guarantee a Claimant's safety. In this instance, the Claimant failed to accept any responsibility for the incident, there was no good reason why the Claimant simply didn't wait for the doors to open! He was the author of his own misfortune and walked into the door at such a pace that he did not give the door sufficient time to open fully.