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Whiskin v Sedgemoor District Council Appeal, Taunton County Court, 7 July 2005

6 September 2005
The issues

Occupiers Liability Act 1957 – Negligence – Extent of Duty and Foreseeability

The facts

The Claimant was the Defendant’s tenant. The Defendant was installing central heating in the Claimant’s home. The home was without hot water for two days. The Claimant complained. The Defendant supplied a hot water boiler (similar to a tea urn) and placed it in kitchen. The Claimant sustained serious scalding injury to shoulder and back whilst taking hot water upstairs in a pan to fill the bath.

The decision

It was accepted that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the Claimant, its tenant, in negligence and under the OLA 1957 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The questions concerned the extent of the duty and causation. The District Judge found that there was negligence and a breach of duty under the OLA 1957 by virtue of the fact that the Defendant sited the temporary boiler in the kitchen and should have known that there would be a need to use hot water upstairs. The Trial Judge also appeared to find that the council were negligent for not completing the installation of the central heating sooner. The District Judge found for the Claimant but reduced the damages by 60% because of the Claimant’s contributory negligence. The Defendant appealed.


The Defendant appealed on the basis that the Judge (i) failed to identify precisely what breach of duty led to the decision on primary liability and (ii) failed to adequately address the issue of foreseeability and causation.

The Judge found that whilst there may have been a duty to provide the boiler, there was no duty to go any further in terms of the Claimant’s subsequent use of the boiler. There was no breach of duty. The Claimant’s actions in using an uncovered pan to carry boiling water upstairs was not foreseeable and the Defendant was not responsible for the Claimant’s subsequent actions.

For further details please contact Darren Salter at dms@veitchpenny.co.uk

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