Stephen Killalea QC succeeds in Court of Appeal in defeating Defendant’s duty of care argument

Stephen Killalea QC succeeded in the Court of Appeal in defeating the Defendant’s duty of care argument. The Claimant/Respondent sustained catastrophic spinal injuries when he fell through a loft hatch at the Defendant/Appellant’s home. The Claimant was an experienced workman who agreed that he appreciated that the hatch would not take his weight and was not relying upon the Defendant (an 80 year old man who had volunteered to hold a pole in the lock/latch of the hatch cover to prevent the lock from vibrating open) in respect of the risk of the hatch bursting open.

The Court of Appeal held that Defendant/Appellant chose to involve himself in the activity and assumed responsibility for ensuring that the latch remained closed. In abandoning his post to answer the telephone the trial Judge found that he caused the lock to partially disengage.

The Court of Appeal rejected the Defendant/Appellant’s case that “reliance” by the Claimant on the Defendant was required in order to establish a duty of care. Lord Justice McCombe (with whom Arden LJ and Vos LJ agreed) considered the cited authorities of Tomlinson v. Congleton, Watson v. British Boxing Board of Control, Wattleworth v. Goodwood Road Racing Co Ltd, Mitchell v. Glasgow CC and Perrett v. Collins and held that a duty of care (albeit a limited one) did exist in the circumstances of the Defendant’s involvement in the task.

The Court also rejected the Defendant/Appellant’s challenge to the preliminary findings of fact made by the trial Judge.

The Personal Representatives of the Estate of Cyril Biddick (Deceased) v. Mark Morcom [2014] EWCA Civ 182.

Stephen Killalea QC (leading Glyn Edwards of St John’s, Bristol) was instructed by Jonathan Peacock of Irwin Mitchell, Bristol.

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