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Searson v Brioland Ltd, Court of Appeal, 24 January 2005

28 January 2005
The issues

Occupier’s Liability – Tripping Injury

The facts

The Claimant attended a wedding at the Defendant’s hotel. When she tried to leave she went through a doorway with a raised threshold. The threshold was approximately 3cm. She failed to see it, tripped, fell over and was seriously injured. The Judge found for the Claimant on the basis that there was no warning of the raised threshold and that she had been acting perfectly reasonably at the time of her accident.

The Defendant appealed. The Judge had not erred in his decision. It was one thing to expect a step up when entering a doorway but another thing to find a doorway which had a raised threshold. She may well have had her mind on other things whilst she was leaving the premises. The lack of any previous report or trip was not relevant.

Appeal dismissed.

The decision

A case which appears to stand out from the more robust guidance given by the Court of Appeal in Beaton v Devon County Council and Kiopasha. We hope to provide a fuller report of this case shortly.

Comments

The Defendant relied on the fact that one million people had passed across the sill without being injured. A witness for the Defendant had given an account of his standing by the doorway for a morning watching people coming out when no-one fell over. This evidence was described as worthless because the fact that there had been no hazard on that particular occasion did not prove or disprove anything.

The fact that no-one had been injured, the Court of Appeal went on to say, went only a very modest way to establish that the object was not hazardous. The Court also noted that no authority other than Palmer v Marks and Spencer had been quoted to them. It is disappointing that the Court of Appeal were not referred to in its own previous decision in Beaton v Devon County Council which they might have found of help on the point relating to absence of previous accidents.

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