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Anderson v Newham College of Further Education

2 April 2002
The issues

Trips – contributory negligence.

The facts

The Claimant was a Mobile Site Supervisor who visited the College in February 1997. When he was in a classroom he tripped over the frame of a white board, which was free-standing and resting against a wall. Had the board been put the other way round and had the Claimant still walked into it, he would have hurt himself at shin height rather than have tripped. The Judge found the College in breach of Regulation 12 of the Work Place (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 in that it had failed to keep the floor of articles likely to cause a trip. However, the Claimant was greatly to blame for not looking where he was going. That share of blame would be quantified at 90% contributory negligence. The Claimant and Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. There was an undoubted breach.

2. Although the Claimant sought to rely on Jayes -v- IMI (Kynoch) Limited a decision of the Court of Appeal in 1985 to the effect that a Claimant could be 100% contributorily negligent even where an employer was in breach of its statutory duty, that case could not survive the earlier House of Lords decision of Boyle -v- Kodak Limited (1969) to the effect that an employer could not exonerate itself from liability for breach of statutory duty unless the breach itself was wholly brought about by the Claimant. In any other situation, the breach itself brought liability to some extent on the employer.

3. The Court of Appeal, in Jays, were not referred to the earlier decision of the House of Lords in Boyle. Jayes therefore will continue to be “a decision which probably is confined to its own facts” (Monkman). Jayes should not be followed by first instance Judges.

4. It would have been reasonably practicable to have turned the white board around. A cross appeal would be allowed to the extent that blame would be apportioned 50/50.

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