Win for widow in Court of Appeal occupiers’ liability case

In James v The White Lion Hotel [2021] EWCA Civ 31, Mr James fell to his death from the second floor window of a hotel at night. The window sill was lower than standard and the defendant hotel was convicted under s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The judge at first instance had found that Mr James “will have recognised that if you sit on a window sill, part out of the window, that there is a risk you may lean too far out or lose your balance slightly, and fall. The Deceased chose to sit on the window sill and accept that risk.” On appeal, the defendant argued that the claim under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 faced an insuperable hurdle, namely that occupiers are not under a duty to protect against obvious dangers, relying on the celebrated House of Lords judgment of Tomlinson v Congleton BC [2004] 1 AC  46.

The Court of Appeal rejected that argument, distinguished Tomlinson and other cases and explained how the claimant had established liability under the OLA consistently with Lord Hoffmann’s obiter dicta comments in Tomlinson.

Robert Weir QC acted for the claimant, leading Andrew Evans of St Philips Chambers (Birmingham), instructed by Mike Bird of Enable Law.

To read the full judgment, please click here. This case was also reported in the Daily Mail

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