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Toole v Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, Court of Appeal, 18 April 2002

23 April 2002
The issues

Employers liability – statutory duty – breach – contributory negligence.

The facts

The Claimant was a cleaner who worked in the Civic Centre which also included the Courts. Hypodermic syringes were regularly left in the toilets. The Defendant had a policy with respect to these. Employers were to contact their Supervisors. Guidance notes were issued, establishing a practice to be followed – namely the employee to get heavy duty gloves, a litter picker and a container for the syringe. The Claimant found a syringe in a bucket. He wore rubber gloves instead of the gloves provided. He thought there was only one syringe, but when he reached in he found there was a second one which pricked him. He sued. The Judge at first instance found that the gloves provided by the Defendant would not have been strong enough to stop a pin prick. He found the Defendant in breach of its statutory duties in failing to supply adequate equipment. However, the Claimant was contributorily negligent for putting his hand in the bucket with a rubber glove on, to the extent of 75%. The Claimant appealed.

The decision

1. Findings of contributory negligence and breach of statutory duty cases were unusual. (See recently Anderson -v- Newham College of Further Education) also a decision of the Court of Appeal).

2. A Judge should necessarily consider whether the findings of breach of statutory duty were causative of the injury.

3. In this case, the Judge had already found the Defendant liable for failing to provide adequate equipment.

4. The Judge had found that the gloves which the Defendant provided would not have prevented the injury.

5. An employee could not be contributorily negligent in failing to take a precaution which itself amounted to a breach of duty. Even if he had worn the gloves, it was by no means certain that he would have avoided the injury.

6. Claimant’s Appeal allowed and finding of contributory negligence set aside.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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