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Peskett v Portsmouth City Council, Court of Appeal, 2 July 2002

2 July 2002
The issues

Occupiers Liability Act 1957 – tripping – shortcut grass – contributory negligence

The facts

The Claimant tripped on a path outside the Council offices. The Claimant had worked for the Council for 20 years and knew the area very well. She tripped (fracturing her wrist) at a point where a tarmac path intersected at a 90-degree angle, a slabbed path. People were in the habit of taking a shortcut across the angle of the two paths. The grass had been worn away where people walked and a depression made next to the path which amounted to a tripping hazard. The Council argued that there had never been any previous accidents there. On the afternoon of the accident, the Council had laid slabs across the worn grass, making good the trip. The Judge found as a fact that the Council knew of the worn grass, but had done nothing and that this made them liable under the Occupiers Liability Act. He further found that the Claimant had been in a hurry and had not been as careful as she should have done and therefore made a finding of 50% contributory negligence.

The decision

1. The path was heavily used and the shortcut obvious. The Council had done nothing but assume that the risk was minimal to people looking carefully on the ground before they walked.

2. The Court could not take any account of the fact that there had been no previous accidents. The more people walked on the path, the greater the hazard became with erosion and it was inevitable that someone would trip eventually.

3. The Court of Appeal would not interfere with the finding of contributory negligence which was the result of the Judge’s consideration of the evidence before him.

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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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