An Appeal Court dismissed a claim by a self-employed courier driver who slipped on a wet plank, for which there were no warning signs in place.
The driver was delivering a package to a private residence but, due to an extension being built, the premises were temporarily an unoccupied building site. There was no access to the front door but the back door could be reached by scaffolding boards laid across muddy ground.
After two unsuccessful attempts to deliver the package, the driver left the item under an oil storage tank in the garden. As he was leaving he slipped on the wet planks and injured his hand.
In court, the driver claimed the plank was a “danger”, especially as it was slippy. As it was a danger, the houseowner defendant should have reasonably been expected to take precautions, such as placing warning signs or excluding people from entering the site.
“Obvious in daylight”
The judge pointed out that “not everything giving rise to an accident is necessarily to be regarded as a danger requiring precautions, or at least not all the time” adding that irregularities in the ground may be “obvious in daylight”, and therefore constitute no danger, but at night the position might be different:
"If it were otherwise, every staircase and every other obstruction of any kind would constitute a danger, against the risks of which, there would be a duty to take precautions. That is not the law."
The judge said that there was nothing to make the plank a hidden danger against which the occupier should have taken precautions, and held that the houseowner was not liable. The court also told the claimant that he had willingly accepted the risk by entering the defendant’s property and would have been found 50% cent liable for contributory negligence.
The Appeal Court agreed that there was no duty in this particular case to exclude people or provide specific warning notices for an “obvious hazard”. The provision of the plank walkway demonstrated reasonable care by the houseowner defendant.