Thursday, 3 January 2013

Law report - occupier's liability

Minors v Simon [2012] SC (Bda) 75 Civ

The Plaintiff had to have her leg off after a wall collapsed onto her at the Defendant's property. She sued for loss and damage, claiming that the wall was dangerously defective.

The Defendant argued that the wall was safe enough and that, in any event, the cause of the accident was an assault by the Plaintiff's boyfriend on an occupant of the property, during which he pushed the occupant and they both fell against the wall causing it to collapse.

HELD by Hellman J:

That the wall complied with the relevant building codes for the time when it was built and had managed to withstand Fabian. It was therefore safe enough.

That even if the wall was unsafe and the defendants knew it to be unsafe, the actions of the Plaintiff's boyfriend were a paradigm case of a deliberate, violent and unforeseeable act sufficient to relieve the defendants of any liability.

Comment - this case is a interesting illustration of intervening causes. If the wall had been unsafe, then the injuries would have been caused by the owner's negligence in failing to maintain the wall. In Horton v Taplin Contracts Limited [2003] ICR 179 CA, an employer was relieved of his statutory duty regarding unsafe scaffolding as the employee had fallen due to another individual deliberately shaking the scaffolding in order to make him fall. In this case, the plaintiff's boyfriend did not intend for the wall to collapse, but his violent actions led directly to this result.

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