0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

Occupiers Liability Act - reactive is reasonable

11 January 2018

In the case of Ivor Cook v Swansea City Council 2017 the claimant slipped on ice in an unmanned car park owned and operated by a local authority which had not been gritted.

The local authority did not grit unmanned car parks and instead operated a reactive system, relying instead on reports from members of the public.

The claimant argued that this reactive system was not sufficient and his accident would have been prevented if council employees who attended the car park (to empty ticket machines or check tickets on cars) were required to report the icy conditions.

The court at first instance found that the reactive system in place was sufficient. The claimant appealed.

The Court of Appeal noted the duty under s2(2) of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 which is to take reasonable steps to ensure the reasonable safety of visitors.

In considering what is ‘reasonable’, a balancing exercise has to be carried out as set out by the House of Lords in the case of Tomlinson v Congleton BC (2003). The exercise involved:

  • an assessment of the likelihood that someone might be injured
  • the seriousness of any injury that might occur
  • the social value of the activity giving rise to the risk
  • the cost of preventative measures.

The Court of Appeal considered all of these factors in turn.

  • likelihood of injury: the risk of ice in cold weather was an obvious danger. There is no duty to warn against obvious dangers (as per Tomlinson). People could reasonably be expected to take care. This car park did not pose any particular risks and there had been no previous reports of accidents or dangerous conditions such that the council were on notice.
  • seriousness of any injury that might occur: injury from a slip could be either trivial or serious.
  • social value: the local authority’s car parks provided 24 hour parking. If gritting was required the council was likely to close unmanned car parks in periods of adverse weather which would therefore lose a valuable social amenity.
  • cost of preventative measures: car parks would either need to be manned or regularly gritted. Gritting would need to be done by hand which would use significant resource that was disproportionate to the risk.

Having applied the balancing factors, the Court of Appeal maintained that the reactive system was reasonable and dismissed the claimant’s appeal.

The decision simply applies well established principles but is a reminder of the importance of applying them on a step by step basis. The case has broad application and can serve as reassurance that in Occupier Liability Act cases the threshold can be met by a reactive system, so long as the balancing exercise (risk v benefit) can be met.

focus on...

Legal updates

Assessing the scope of employers liability – Chell v Tarmac

These were the opening remarks of Mr Justice Martin Spencer when handing down his Judgment in the recent case of Andrew Chell v Tarmac Cement and Lime Limited [2020] EWHC 2613, the latest in a series of appeals dealing with the scope of vicarious liability.

View

Legal updates

Non-payment of insurance premiums during the Coronavirus pandemic

The forced closure of many businesses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Recent reports from the Office for National Statistics state that the economy was 25% smaller in April than it was in February this year.

View

Legal updates

Reinstatement for property damage losses – when does it apply?

The Court of Appeal has recently considered the correct test for measuring the indemnity for property damage losses and has provided useful guidance on whether an insured needs to intend to reinstate the property to its pre-loss condition.

View

Legal updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) insurance considerations

With instances of COVID-19 rapidly increasing throughout the UK, many businesses are considering the options available to limit staff and customer exposure to Coronavirus.

View

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.

mailing list sign up



Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up