An event management company was in breach of its duty to a visitor when she suffered a leg injury after tripping and falling over a plastic icicle during a visit to Santa's grotto

The Claimant, who was elderly, had gone with five members of her family to visit Santa's Grotto at a department store in London.  The Grotto was four metres by three metres in size and was operated by two employees, Santa and an Elf.  The Elf's job was to take visitors in and out and to make sure there was nothing loose on the floor.  It was also Santa's job to make sure the Grotto was safe and he had about 90 seconds between the entry of each group of visitors to check from the vantage of his throne that there was no danger.

Sadly, the Claimant lost her balance when she stepped on a plastic icicle and a Christmas tree bauble on the floor of the Grotto.

At first instance it was found that neither Santa nor the Elf could have seen the icicle as it was partly hidden by a toy train, but there was a good system of inspection in place and therefore no liability.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal found that if the icicle was there to be fallen over then it was there to be seen.  The Court of Appeal was less convinced as to the thoroughness with which the Elf and Santa discharged their duties.

It also found that there was no contributory negligence.  The accident happened when the Claimant stepped backwards and sideways at the request of the Elf to move out of the way of a photograph and that, at the time, her attention was drawn to the other side of the Grotto where the toys were.  It was not her duty to ensure that there was no tripping hazard - it was the duty of Santa and the Elf.  In the circumstances there is no finding of contributory negligence.