Morden Hall Park was a property owned by the National Trust (NT), Morden Lodge was in the south west corner of the park and the National Trust managed its gardens. The warden of the park had previously used an independent tree surgeon or arborist, Joe Jackman (JJ) to undertake work on trees in the park. He contracted JJ to carry several days work which included the felling of a horse chestnut tree which was suffering from extensive bleeding canker and honey fungus.
The Claimant was part of the team of 3 employed as independent contractors by JJ to carry out the works. On the day in question, JJ was not present.
The Claimant climbed the tree using a rope and harness and began to cut off the branches of tree with a chain saw. The other 2 contractors were on the ground feeding the fallen branches into the wood chipper. The Claimant had been working for about 1-1½ hours and was approximately 50 feet up when he fell to the ground. It is not known how or why the Claimant fell, the Claimant cannot recall what caused him to fall and the 2 men on the ground were not looking in his direction at the time. One of the men on the ground had to cut the rope with secateurs in two or three places to free the Claimant who had become tangled up in the rope upon falling.
The Claimant suffered a completed spinal cord injury in the fall which has rendered him permanently paraplegic.
The Claimant pursued a claim in negligence against the National Trust.
To succeed in a claim for negligence the Claimant must show that the Defendant owed him a duty of care, such duty had to be a relevant duty, in that it was a breach of that duty which was causative of the Claimant’s loss.
The Claimant was not an employee of the National Trust, he was injured carrying out work which the National Trust had contracted with JJ to do. The National Trust had no control over the Claimant.
The Claimant argued that the National Trust had hired JJ and did not take reasonable care to see that he and his work methods were competent and safe. Evidence was presented that JJ did not have sufficient liability insurance and all appropriate qualifications. The Court held that the NT did not owe the Claimant a duty of care in its choice of JJ as its independent contractor and therefore the claim was dismissed.