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Gallagher v Haven Leisure Limited, High Court, 10 December 2003

17 December 2003
The issues

Occupiers liability – pothole – trip.

The facts

The Claimant was staying with his wife and two children at the Defendant’s caravan park on the Isle of Wight. At about 8.30 in the morning one day, he fell and injured his left knee. The place where he fell was on a grassy area between two caravans, which was not far from the caravan in which he and his family were staying. He had taken the route on many occasions during the holiday, which was nearly at an end. As he walked, he claimed he put his left foot into a hollow, which was obscured by grass growing over it, and he fell to the ground. There was some disagreement as to the circumstances of the accident. The Claimant injured his knee but had a pre-existing condition and so the claim was one for acceleration. The Claimant had given different accounts of the accident, initially that it was a twisting injury and subsequently that he had fallen directly onto his knee. The Claimant had admitted being involved in benefit fraud prior to the accident.

The decision

1. The Judge accepted that there had been a fall, notwithstanding his dissatisfaction with the Claimant’s evidence.

2. When the Claimant subsequently inspected, no hole was visible although there was a gully nearby. The Claimant had alleged that the hole had been covered over. The Defendant had denied this and the Judge accepted the Defendant’s evidence.

3. The most probable explanation was that the Claimant had put his foot into a natural gully, probably a wheel rut that was similar to the gully that had been present when the Claimant had inspected almost 3 years later.

4. The area where the Claimant had slipped was sloping, leading to the sea. The slopes were likely to be slippery when wet and contained a number of obvious holes and hollows, yet the slopes were part of the charm of the site. Although roads and pathways had been provided, it must have been obvious to the Defendants that users of the site would regularly cut across the grass.

5. No evidence of any similar previous mishaps had been presented to the Judge. The gully was within a range of features reasonably to be expected on this site and to expect the Defendant to have filled it in would have required the Defendant to have filled in many other similar areas, which would have been an unreasonable and unnecessary burden and would have destroyed a part of the character of the site.

Claim dismissed

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