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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

25 MAY 2016

Katie Cruz v The Chief Constable of Lancashire Police & Anor [2016] EWCA Civ 402

Katie Cruz v The Chief Constable of Lancashire Police & Anor [2016] EWCA Civ 402
Employers’ liability – foreseeability – risk – Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

26 April 2016

Court of Appeal: Lord Justice Tomlinson, Lord Justice Simon and Mr Justice Morgan

Summary

The court held that the defendant was not liable for the injury suffered by the claimant when a cell door was left partially open rather than fully open. The court also held that there was no breach of Regulations 5 or 17 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and that the partially open door presented no real, foreseeable risk of relevant injury. Article continues below...

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Detail

The claimant was working as a civilian detention officer and was escorting a female detained person, who had been arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly, to a cell. It was normal practice at the police station that the door of an unoccupied cell be left fully open, although in this instance the door of the cell had inadvertently been left partially open. The other officer who was assisting the claimant with the detained person took both hands off the detained person to complete the door-opening manouevre. As the claimant and the detained person then moved forward, the detained person suddenly went to the ground, taking the claimant by surprise and pulling the claimant with her. The claimant consequently landed on the floor with her left arm trapped between her body and the floor. The claimant suffered a significant injury to her dominant wrist as a result.

The claimant alleged that, as a result of the cell door not being fully open flush to the wall, the corridor, which was accepted to be part of her workplace, was not maintained in an efficient state. She alleged that the defendant was in breach of the duty owed under Regulation 5 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The judge at first instance held that there had been no breach of Regulation 5, as the partially open door presented no foreseeable risk of injury.

The appellate court held that the foreseeable injury must be a 'relevant injury' as the foreseeable injury must in this context be an injury to those whose workplace is under consideration. The court accepted that there was evidence that a partially open door could lead to a modest delay in delivering a detained person to a cell, which could increase risk of injury to a detained person. However, it held that this had no bearing on whether the partially open door presented a foreseeable risk of injury to the civilian detention officers. The court found that the partially open door was not itself identified as a possible source of injury to the civilian detention officers.

The court further held that the foreseeable risk of injury must be real or material. It stated that lower court's decision that the partially open door presented no real risk of relevant injury was not just within the ambit of reasonable decision-making, but was obviously correct. Further, as the cell complex contained 27 cells and 5 detention rooms, the notion that every time a door was inadvertently left partially open a material risk of injury was created to employees lacked reality.

The court also held that there was no breach of Regulation, and that if the partially open door did not render it unsuitable for pedestrians under Regulation 17 it could not render it not maintained in an efficient state under Regulation 5.

The court concluded that the accident suffered by the claimant was a misfortune; however, one which the respondent could not be held liable for.

Comment

The court emphasised the importance of practical reasoning, in considering the foreseeability of the risk of material injury. The court also made a distinction between the risk of injury to detained persons and that to employees, accepting that there was a foreseeable risk of injury in relation to the former, but not to the detention officers.

Kim Pryce and Victoria Brown, Anthony Gold
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