Edwards v Sutton LBC [2016] EWCA Civ 1005

The defendant (SLBC) appealed against a decision that it was primarily liable under OLA 1957 in respect of a serious injury sustained by the respondent (E) when he fell from a small ornamental footbridge in a park onto rocks in the water below.

E cross-appealed against the decision that SLBC was not required to construct railings along the bridge.

The bridge, being over 100 years old, had a low parapet about 26-30cm high. E had attempted to cycle the narrow path over the bridge, when he fell into the water.

In subsequent personal injury proceedings, the judge held that, although there was nothing wrong with the state of the premises, and no history of accident or injury, the local authority had had a duty under s.2 of the Act to ensure that visitors were ‘safe’.

A distinction was drawn between that provision and s.1(1)(a) of OLA 1984, which regulated whether a duty was owed by reason of any danger due ‘to the state of the premises’. He found that SLBC should have identified and assessed the risk, it was not required to fit railings, but should have warned about the low parapet.

E was held 40% contibutorily negligent.

The issues considered on appeal were:

1. whether the judge had misapplied the 1957 Act;

2. whether the judge had taken the right approach to the risk assessment; and

3. whether the judge had reached the correct conclusion regarding the installation of railings.

Held:

1. Determining an occupier’s duty in each case involved first identifying the dangers. The judge below had not adequately focused on that issue. It was understandable that an unfenced bridge with low parapets would present more danger of a fall than a bridge with high guard rails, but there were many such unprotected bridges up and down the country. Any user of the bridge would have appreciated the need to take care, especially a user pushing a bicycle to his side. The judge below had set too high a standard.

2. A formal risk assessment would not have produced anything other than a statement of the obvious.

3. The existence of modern requirements for side barriers to be fitted to new structures did not mean that occupiers were liable if an older structure did not meet these standards.

Appeal allowed, cross-appeal dismissed.

G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd v Manley [2016] EWHC 2355 (QB)

The defendant (G4S) appealed against a County Court decision that it was in breach of OLA 1957 s.2(2) for a failure to restore power to the cell of the respondent prisoner (M) within a reasonable time following an electricity failure.

The power failure occurred four days after M had returned to the prison after a hip operation. He reported the failure between 20:15 and 20:20 via the intercom in his cell. He informed the officer that he had mobility problems. The officer passed on the power failure notification, but not the information regarding M’s circumstances.

Power was restored at 20:47, however during the time that the power was out M had fallen and hit his head whilst trying to get to the toilet.

Power failures in the prison were frequent and lasted approximately 10 minutes. The judge considered that the amount of light in the cell would have enabled M to see the main objects within his cell, but not the slipper that was sticking out from under the bed, which caused him to fall.

The judge held that the power supply should have resumed at 20:35.

The points considered on appeal were as follows:

1. Was the judges approach to s.2 incorrect because he had failed to consider whether the lighting conditions, as an objective fact, rendered the premises unsafe; and

2. Whether the judge had imposed an unreasonably high standard of care on G4S.

It was decided that the judge had taken the right approach to s.2 and had applied the correct test. The claimant had to establish that G4S had failed to:

1. Take such care as was reasonable in the circumstances;

2. To ensure that M would be reasonably safe in using his cell.

The judge considered that the senior officer should been told the claimant had reduced mobility and was less able to look after himself under poor lighting conditions. the lighting situation would have been rectified far quicker had this information been passed on.

The decision did not impose an unduly high standard of care. It was not a case of the judge treating a delay of 15-20 minutes beyond the target time of 10 minutes for restoring electricity as a breach of s.2 duty. The judge was concerned with the failure to restore power within normal timescales where G4S knew, or ought to have known, of the need for urgency.

Appeal dismissed.