No duty for the reasonably careful

Posted: 10th October 2016


Health and safety rules are tight but there is no duty on property owners to guard against every eventuality and those who take reasonable care have no reason to worry. A judge made that point as he cleared the City of London Corporation of responsibility for a slipping accident at Billingsgate fish market.

A fishmonger had just completed his purchases at the market when his feet went from under him as he was returning to his van. He suffered a shoulder injury in the fall and sued the Corporation, which owns and manages the market, for five-figure damages on the basis that the accident was the foreseeable result of its failure to keep the market’s floor free from hazardous spillages.

The judge accepted that the man had slipped on a patch of a mucous substance, identified as fish slime. However, in rejecting the claim and exonerating the Corporation, he found that it had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of visitors to the market. During busy periods, the market had three constables on duty, looking out for hazards and reporting them by radio to a cleaner.

That system, which included an inspection of the floors every ten minutes, had been in place on the night of the accident and there was no evidence that it had failed in the past. The safety measures were adequate to deal with hazards as they arose within a reasonable time and the Corporation had matched up to its duty of care.