The case below was virtually identical on facts to the toilet handle case described at length in the December 2005 and June 2006 Law Bulletin. Again, a toilet handle sheared off while being used by the claimant.
The judge again found that the Work Equipment Regulations 1998 could not apply after Hammond. He also found no case could arise under the Occupiers Liability Act when there was a latent defect, the accident was not foreseeable and there was no evidence of lack of maintenance.
So, again, regulations 5 (1) and 20 of the Work Place Regulations were the claimant’s last resort.
The judge found that, if there was a breach of Regulation 20 concerning the suitability of the toilet, then there was a breach of the strict liability terms of Regulation 5 of the Work Place Regulations.
The main argument was whether the words “suitable and sufficient” in regulation 20 incorporated a foreseeability of risk.
Counsel for the defendant said they did and said this could be seen with reference to the Court of Appeal decision on Palmer when considering regulation 12 (2) Workplace Regs .
The judge found the wording of regulation 20 was different from that of regulation 12(2) in that there was no reference to risk. Regulation 20 was not couched in terms of risk but only in providing “suitable and sufficient” conveniences. A dangerous toilet handle did not form part of a suitable convenience. This was a breach of regulation 20 and therefore a breach of regulation 5 (1) and the claimant succeeded.
Kirsty Nixon -v- Staffordshire County Council. Telford County Court, 22 June 2006