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Reduced Damages For Fall From Ladder Due to Contributory Negligence

Man lying on the ground next to a ladder
22nd October 2015

A senior sales assistant who fell from a ladder while trying to reach a box on the top shelf has been awarded a four figure sum, reduced by 25% for contributory negligence.

The assistant, a 37 year old mother of two, had been called into the stockroom to retrieve a box, which another sales assistant couldn’t reach. Unable to get near enough to the box, which was at the rear of the top shelf, she was climbing back down the 12 foot high ladder when she suddenly fell to the ground.

The court heard that the claimant attended A&E suffering from soft tissue damage to her lower back, calf and elbow. Despite returning to work and her injuries slowly improving, the assistant said she still felt pain in her lower back, which left her unable to drive or walk for long distances without stopping. She also relied on her two teenage daughters to help with housework and shopping as her husband was disabled.

No defect with the ladder itself

The shop owner defendant admitted a breach of regulation 6(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which states that, ‘Every employer shall ensure that work is not carried out at height where it is reasonably practicable to carry out the work safely otherwise than at height’.

The judge also said it was clear from the evidence that the assistant had used a ladder when she should not have been required to do by her employers.

However, the court also determined that there was no defect found with the ladder itself, the judge noting that a “non-defective A-frame ladder would not simply collapse without some unbalancing force having been applied to it”. The judge concluded that the assistant would have created such a force if she had transferred her whole weight from the shelving back to the ladder when attempting to come back down the ladder.

Consequently, the court reduced the total value of the claim of £12,800 by 25%, down to £9,600, due to her contributory negligence.