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Butcher v Cornwall County Council, Court of Appeal

30 October 2011
The issues

Contributory negligence – blame/blameworthiness – causation – door hitting Claimant.

The facts

The Claimant worked for the Cornwall Fire Brigade as a Storeman. At the premises at which he worked there was an external door, which opened outward to a 90 degree angle. There had previously been a hook and eye device which allowed the door to be secured in the open position. At the time of the accident, this was not there. The Claimant was working outside the door when it was suddenly blown open by wind and hit him on the head. He had previously been walking back and forth through the doorway and thought he had properly secured it closed on its latching mechanism. He acknowledged in evidence that he had not in fact closed it properly. The Defendant argued that it was the Claimant’s failure to shut the door properly that caused the accident, and that they had supplied a safe method of securing the door in its closed position and there was no duty to provide an alternative method – i.e. of securing it open.

The decision

1. The Defendant was in breach of its duty for failing to provide a sufficient mechanism, whether a hook and eye device or some other to hold the door open. The Judge had found that had there been something in place, the Claimant would have used it.

2. Had the Claimant shut the door properly, the accident could have been averted. The Judge’s finding of 10% contributory negligence was too little. A substantial measure of blame had to fall upon the Claimant and the more appropriate percentage would have been one half. However, the Judge found that the Claimant was less blameworthy and accordingly, the Judge’s Order would be adjusted to a finding of one-third contributory negligence.

Appeal allowed in part.

Comments

For further information with regard to this case please contact markhammerton@vpinsurance.net

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