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Lovett v Arthur Anderson & Co, Court of Appeal, 5 November 2003

17 November 2003
The issues

Trip – slip – step behind door.

The facts

The Claimant claimed against her employer after she fell down a 6-inch step. The step was immediately behind a door. She had been told by her employer to go and get some software from the library. She was told to turn left after coming out of the lift on the 5th floor. She opened the door to a room marked “Plant Room” thinking it was the room she had been told to go to. She stepped forward to look for the light switch when she fell down the 6-inch step. Rooms in the same position on other floors did not have this step. The Judge found that the accident had occurred because the Claimant had not been looking where she was going. Had she been doing so, she would or should have seen the step. The cause of the accident was not the directions given to the Claimant or their inadequacy, but the Claimant’s inadequate attention. The Judge, having made a site visit and having heard evidence found that the step would have been obvious as soon as the door was opened.

The Claimant appealed.

The decision

1. The Claimant had made a mistake as to which was the right door to open. The position and condition of the step was not something that the employer should reasonably have foreseen as likely to have caused her harm.

2. The Judge had found that the Claimant should have seen the step. This was a finding of no breach, which the Court would not disturb.

Appeal dismissed


Arden LJ dissented on the basis that the Claimant was carrying out her employer’s
instructions and that it was foreseeable that she would not give primary consideration to her
own safety.

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