A pedestrian tripped over a small piece of concrete protruding from the base of a damaged traffic bollard and sued the occupier of the premises. The judge found the occupier liable because there was a foreseeable risk of injury. But did the Court of Appeal agree with that analysis?

In the Court of Appeal’s view, no highway authority, or occupier of premises like the cathedral in the case, could possibly ensure that the roads or the precincts around a building are maintained in a pristine state. The occupier’s obligation is to make the land reasonably safe for visitors, not to guarantee their safety. To impose liability, there must be something over and above the risk of injury from the minor blemishes and defects habitually found on any road or pathway. The law has to strike a balance between the nature and extent of the risk and the cost of eliminating it. The risk is reasonably foreseeable, so as to impose liability, only where there is a real source of danger which a reasonable person would recognise as obliging the occupier to take remedial action. A visitor is, however, reasonably safe despite any visible minor defects on the road which carry a foreseeable risk of causing an accident and injury. And in the end the trial judge has to use their judgment to decide whether the danger is sufficiently serious to require the occupier to take steps to eliminate it.

Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral v Debell [2016] EWCA Civ 1094