05 September, 2017
James Walker v Thirteen Group Ltd
Middlesborough County Court - Judge Ord
The Claimant sustained a needle stick injury whilst decorating his step daughter's bathroom at premises let to her by the Defendant. The Claimant's hand came into contact with a hidden needle. Subsequently, more needles were found as well as other drug paraphernalia including tin foil and a spoon.
The Claimant alleged that the Defendant had breached the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 as the needles should have been detected by the Voids Officer when inspecting the property or during the cleaning of the property.
The Judge determined that whilst the Defendant did owe a duty to the Claimant, he was satisfied that the Defendant had in place a system of inspection which was reasonable. The Voids Officer used his own experience and knowledge when carrying out the inspection and the Judge was satisfied that the inspection was carried out with proper diligence.
Furthermore, the Judge did not accept that the location of the premises, the previous tenant's partner being charged for robbery or the fact that tenant had left without notice was sufficient to lead the landlord to assume or presume that drug use may have taken place.
The Defendant relied on the inspection by the Voids Officer who had been entitled to decide that a needle sweep was not necessary. In addition, having examined the cleaning regime the Judge was also satisfied that the property had been adequately cleaned prior to the tenant moving into the property. The tenant also conceded that she had cleaned the bathroom daily for six months and had not discovered the needles which suggested that the items must have been very well hidden.
The claim was dismissed.
Whilst this was an unfortunate accident for the Claimant, it is a common sense decision and confirms that there is no duty on landlords to carry out a detailed needle stick sweep on properties where there are no known drug issues.
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