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Lewis v Six Continents (formerly Bass Plc), Queen's Bench Division, 4 March 2005

21 March 2005
The issues

Occupier’s Liability – Claimant Falling From Hotel Window – Hotel’s Duty Of Care

The facts

On 10th May 2000 the Claimant fell out of a second floor window in a hotel in Letchworth. He was 27 at the time of the accident. He was sharing a twin bedded room with an employee of his father’s business in which he also worked, Mr Bamford.

In respect of the window in question the height from the floor to the base of the opening was 75 cm. There was no limiter on the window which could be fully opened to create an aperture 68.5 cm square. There was relatively little space between the nearest bed and the window. On the night in question the Claimant and Mr Bamford had gone to the restaurant to have an evening meal and had something to drink. They then went to the bar where they had more to drink and ended with some other “lads” on the course to drink in town.

Mr Bamford said he had probably had 5 pints or more that night but he did not know how much the Claimant had had to drink. He indicated that the Claimant showed no signs of being drunk. The Claimant went to bed first at about 10 pm and Mr Bamford at about 11.30 pm. Mr Bamford went to sleep and was awoken by a loud bang. He looked out of the window that was open to see the Claimant lying on the ground below. There was no clear evidence as to what had happened but the most likely explanation was that the Claimant had leant out of the window to get some fresh air or even possibly to be sick. On the evidence the Judge found that he had probably had several pints of beer but was not particularly drunk.

The Claimant relied on the Health and Safety Commissions Workplace, Safety and Welfare approved Code of Practice which provided that the bottom edge of opening windows should normally be at least 800 mm above floor level and also to the Building Regulations 1991 (which did not apply to the hotel but was said to represent good practice) which provided that where there was a danger to fall through a window above ground level a suitable opening limiter should be fitted or a guard provided.

The decision

1. The hotel was not required to comply with the 800 mm recommendation. In any event there was no evidence to suggest the difference of 50 mm was causative.
2. It could not be the case that any window above ground level should have bars or limiters. The duty under the Occupier’s Liability Act was to take such care as was reasonable in all the circumstances to see that the visitor was reasonably safe. The consequences of the Claimant’s submissions would be that virtually every window in every building in the land would have to be adapted so that no one could fall out. That was not a reasonable precaution to be imposed on householders or hoteliers.

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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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