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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

10 APR 2014

Inherently Dangerous? - Gary Bryan Johnson v Warburtons Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 258; (2014) APIL 025

Inherently Dangerous? - Gary Bryan Johnson v Warburtons Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 258; (2014) APIL 025
The claimant fell from the steps of a lorry and fractured his ankle. He argued that the defendant was liable because the steps were without a handrail and he received no training in how to use them safely. The judge found the steps were not inherently dangerous nor was there a need for training or a risk assessment because the need to care was obvious. The claimant appealed unsuccessfully.
Moore-Bick LJ, Tomlinson LJ, Sir Robin Jacob
The claimant was employed by the defendant as a heavy goods driver. After inspecting his load he exited his lorry through one of the side doors. To do this he was required to descend three steps. He lost his footing and fell down a large drop at the side of the road suffering a fracture to his ankle.
The claimant argued that the steps posed an inherent risk of danger because there was no inbuilt handrail to use. Instead the claimant had the option of grasping a flap to help secure himself which he chose not to use. In the alternative the claimant argued that he ought to have received training in how to use the steps safely.
The claim was dismissed for several reasons. The defendant operated a large fleet of lorries and no drivers had expressed concern with the steps. The transport manager noted that the use of two steps was causing problems for some drivers and recommended an additional step to aid their comfort. He said the two steps posed inherent danger and had found no problems with the three step approach. Additionally the HSE had approved the steps as safe.
The Court of appeal agreed in dismissing the appeal. In relation to the lack of training in how to use the steps, the court added that neither training nor a risk assessment was necessary because the need to take care was obvious.
Comment
The above case demonstrates that courts often require a high degree of persuading before they will decide something is inherently dangerous. The case also highlights the importance of legal advisors giving sufficient weight to obvious risks when assessing a claimant's prospects of establishing primary liability in a claim for negligence.
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