If someone suffers an accident whilst they are in a cafe, shop or office premises, such as slipping on a wet floor or tripping on loose paving stones, the owners of the business or premises may be liable to pay compensation for the personal injuries caused by the accident.
Responsible businesses and organizations have insurance cover, known as public liability insurance so that if a visitor to their shop suffers an accident, the insurance company will deal with the accident compensation claim. The public liability insurance usually covers both accidents that happen on their premises and also accidents caused by the carelessness of their staff and employees.
The law that places legal obligations on business owners to take steps to ensure that their premises, whether cafes, shops, or offices, etc are reasonably safe, is the Occupiers’ Liability Act. The law does not require business owners to guarantee the safety of people that visit their businesses or premises, however, it does place the business owners under a duty of care to ensure that visitors will be reasonably safe whilst on their premises.
An example of this is the compensation claim made by Mrs Linda Butcher against the owner of a block of flats after she fell in the rear garden of the block of flats whilst visiting her parents. There was a narrow, diagonal footpath in the rear garden and Mrs Butcher suffered an accident due to her foot falling off the edge of the tarmac footpath. The surface of the footpath was about 2 inches above the level of the adjacent garden.
The owners of the block of flats argued that they regularly inspected the garden and had not noticed anything that appeared to be a possible hazard for people visiting the flats. However, the judge hearing the compensation claim accepted that the soil had been missing from the side of the footpath for a long time before the accident, and that it was reasonably foreseeable that a visitor to the flats, such as Mrs Butcher, may suffer an accident caused by misplacing their feet and stepping off the edge of the narrow path into the dip in the garden at the side of the path.
The court decided that Mrs Butcher was entitled to be paid compensation for suffering the accident because the owner of the flats had failed to take such care as could be reasonably expected to ensure that visitors would be safe whilst using the rear garden. After the accident, the owner of the flats filled in with soil the dip at the side of the tarmac path to prevent any more accidents. It was a cheap and effective way of removing the hazard and for reasons of safety, it should have been done a lot sooner.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.
The Court of Appeal’s decision in Butcher v Southend-On-Sea Borough Council.
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