Our client was a working visitor at the defendant’s school. She slipped on the corner of a large spillage that was greasy and covered with a white substance: she didn’t see the spillage until after her fall.

She also saw then that the spillage had been taped off with yellow/black hazard warning tape about two-foot high and a caution sign had been erected.

We pleaded breaches of Regulation 12 of the Workplace Regulations and section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

The defendant’s case was that they had taken all reasonable practicable steps as they had fenced off the spillage and erected the caution sign. The white powder on the floor was ‘Sanitaire’ – anti-bacterial powder and this is put down, for example, on vomit or blood for the spillage to dry and then it can be swept up safely.

The Judge found that the burden of proving that all reasonable practicable steps had been taken to remove the spillage from the floor fell on the defendants but that they had not discharged that burden as no direct evidence had been produced by them to support what was actually on the floor, how long it had been there for and whether it was appropriate for the spillage to be cleaned up immediately or not. The Judge found she would have to speculate to find in their favour so Judgment for the claimant.

However, the claimant was found to be 50 per cent contributorily negligent as the she admitted she wasn’t looking where she was going as she was looking straight ahead; the other people she was walking with didn’t have a fall and the spillage had been cordoned off. The Judge commented that she could not think what else the defendants could have done to bring the hazard to the claimant’s attention.

Birmingham CC, 19th Dec 2008.