Defect Not an Accident Waiting to Happen

Article

31 January, 2017

Watson v The Co-operative Group

December 2016 - Stoke on Trent County Court

The Claimant brought a claim for personal injury after tripping whilst taking a short cut across the frontage of a funeral parlour.

The Claimant alleged that there was a depression in the tarmac at the point it met a paved slab which caused her to trip and fall forwards.

Whilst the judge was satisfied that the Claimant had tripped in the general area he did not consider that the depression constituted a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury to the Claimant or other lawful visitors. The judge commented "it isn't sufficient to simply prove the fact of an accident to establish a breach." After reviewing the photographs of the defect he noted that they simply did not show "an accident waiting to happen".

In addition, the judge pointed to the fact that there was no supportive evidence that others had fallen or tripped in this area.

The case was dismissed.

Forbes comment

The Judge was keen to stress in his judgment that a defect must constitute a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury. In the recent Court of Appeal case, Debell v Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral (2016), Elias LJ revisited the meaning of 'reasonable foreseeability' and advised judges to avoid imposing liability based on the "fantastic possibility" of risk. He advocated a practical and realistic approach to the concept of reasonable foreseeability, only imposing liability where there is a 'real source of danger'.

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