15 April, 2010
Forbes has successfully defended an occupiers liability claim brought against Preston College at trial. The claim was dismissed on the grounds that the judge did not find a foreseeable risk of danger.
The Claimant was walking to lectures at Preston College when she allegedly slipped on gravel which had escaped from an ornamental border on to the path. In evidence, the Claimant described that it was raining at the time of the accident and the effect of walking on the stones was akin 'to walking on marbles'.
At the trial the Defendant successfully argued that since the college had opened in 1995 over 2 million visitors had walked across the path without sustaining an injury. Deputy District Judge Jones found that the Claimant had fallen on some stones which were wet and slippery. However, he commented that he did not find that there was a foreseeable risk of injury from these stones. He remarked 'I am conscious of the wording of the duty which is a duty to take reasonable care, it is not an absolute duty'. He continued that it was true that the stones were not where they should have been or intended to be but was not comfortable with the suggestion that it was an unreasonable hazard and accordingly dismissed the claim.
This case serves as a reminder that the duty placed upon occupiers pursuant to section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 is to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes of which he is invited. The duty does not require occupiers to take every possible step available to avoid risk to visitors. It appears that the courts are prepared to take a sensible approach when faced with cases of this type.
For further information please contact Sarah Wilkinson at our Blackburn office, Marsden House, 28 Wellington St (St Johns), Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 8DA. Tel: 01254 662831.