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Tucker v Somerset County Council, Trowbridge County Court, 3 January 2004

10 February 2004
The issues

Occupier’s liability – trespass – schools – duty to inspect or maintain gates.

The facts

Mr Tucker was a 54-year old Driving Instructor who injured his thumb on the 8th September 2000 at a school under the control of the Defendant. Before the new school term, a letter had been sent to all parents stating that they should not use the front gate to the school, but instead that they should use the entrance to the rear. The Claimant accepts that he probably received the letter but that he did not read it. On the day of the accident, he had rung the school to say he would be bringing his daughter in late. He was reminded to park at the rear of the school and use that entrance. The Claimant had been reluctant to do so for security reasons and on arriving he drove through the open front gates. On leaving the school, he went to shut the gate being concerned for safety reasons and on pushing the sliding bolt, caught his thumb between the bolt and the frame of the gate. After the accident a “stop” was added to prevent it happening again. The bolt was of a traditional design found on many gates throughout the country.

The decision

1. The letter sent prior to the start of the term gave the parents a conditional licence to visit the premises subject to them not using the front gate.

2. The fact that Mr Tucker had not read the letter was irrelevant.

3. Mr Tucker at the relevant time was a trespasser.

4. Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984, the Defendant had a liability only if he was aware of the potential danger or had reasonable grounds to believe that it existed. The Defendant was not aware of any such danger and had no reasonable grounds to believe that there was. Accordingly, the Defendant was not liable.

Claim dismissed.

For further information contact Daniel Turner on danielturner@veitchpenny.co.uk.

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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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