Freak Accident This case deals with the position at common law relating to an "unprecedented, unexpected and freak hazard". Practicability of precautions.
Court of Appeal
Occupiers Liability Act 1957
The plaintiff was employed by the defendant. On the afternoon of the day of the accident, an exceptionally heavy rainstorm had flooded the whole of the defendant's premises. Oil, which normally ran in covered channels in the floor of the building, rose to the surface and when the water drained away, left an oily film on the floor. The defendants took measures to clean away the oil, using all the sawdust available to them. The plaintiff came on duty with the night shift, unaware of the condition of the floor. While endeavouring to place a heavy barrel on a trolley, his foot slipped on the still oily surface, he fell on his back, and the barrel crushed his left ankle. The trial judge found a breach of common law duty. The Court of Appeal reversed this decision.
The reasonable employer had to make a decision whether or not to
shut the factory down and totally eliminate the risk. The employer
took every step that reasonably could have been taken in the
circumstances and in so doing had negated any possible allegation of
A defendant does not have to totally eliminate the risk but must do as much as the reasonable person would do in the circumstances.
This case deals with the position at common law
relating to an "unprecedented and freak hazard". Where, for example,
a means of access becomes hazardous due to snow or ice, it may not
be reasonably practicable to take immediate steps to do something
about it and a "temporary" delay may be expected. However, there
must be reasonable attempts to deal with the problem. The Court also
ruled that the definition of "maintained", used in the Factories Act
1961, was clearly directed to the state of the construction of the
floor and not its temporary and unexpected condition or obstructions
on its surface. As a result Latimer lost his claim.