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‘Freak accident’ is no defence

posted 15 Mar 2009, 15:06 by Dilwoar Hussain   [ updated 15 Mar 2009, 15:10 ]
From The Times
February 27, 2009

Court of Appeal
Published February 27, 2009
Craner v Dorset County Council

It was no defence for a county council which left paving slabs uneven, causing injuries to a school caretaker, to say that what had occurred was a freak accident which could not have been prevented or guarded against.

The Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Sedley, Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Longmore) so stated on December 5, 2008, dismissing an appeal by Dorset County Council from Judge Bond who held in Bournemouth County Court, on April 7, 2008, that the council was liable in damages for personal injuries suffered by David Craner, a school caretaker, when a trolley he was pushing at his school came to an abrupt halt when hitting a protruded paving slab.

LORD JUSTICE LONGMORE said that the judge had felt that it was not a freak or inexplicable accident which could not have been prevented; accidents like it occurred frequently up and down the land.

However much the courts might not wish to encourage a compensation culture, the fact remains that regulations existed.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (SI 1992 No 3004) to a large extent replaced the old common law of negligence and regulation 12 imposed a higher standard of liability on employers than a mere negligence liability.

The county council’s attitude that other matters at the school had a higher maintenance priority than paving stones was entirely understandable but did not, of itself, afford any defence to a claim alleging breach of the regulations.