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Burke v Lancashire County Council and another, Court of Appeal, 7 November 2001

15 November 2001
The issues

Occupiers liability – Stack of chairs falling – Duty of care.

The facts

The Claimant was a student at Blackpool College and had an accident when her knee was dislocated following a fall of a stack of 4 chairs. The chairs had been stacked by students. The Trial Judge filed for the Claimant on the basis that the Defendants had issued no warnings as to how chairs should have been stacked and the dangers that followed from the chairs being stacked improperly. The Defendant appealed on the basis that there was a duty of care including a duty to instruct as to the correct way of stacking.

The decision

1. The duty under Section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 was not absolute.

2. The Judges finding as to the apparent danger of stacking chairs improperly was one much benefiting from hindsight.

3. If it was wrong to put unreasonable obligations on occupiers – see Bolton v Stone 1951 particularly the speech of Lord Porter.

4. A reasonably careful member of staff would not think that the chairs would be inappropriately stacked or likely to fall over spontaneously or that if they did they would cause injury with any seriousness, or that any warning would make any difference.

5. The type of injury that the Claimant suffered would seem to be a highly unlikely result of a stack of four chairs falling.

Appeal allowed.

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