Twenty per cent seems to be the figure of the month for Judges. In Walker -v- G F Tomlinson Building at Stoke on Trent County Court on 11 May 2007 the claimant, a building inspector, was on the defendants’ site and trod on a plywood cover over a manhole.

The plywood slipped and he fell into the manhole. Despite the fact that the claimant was a visitor to the site, the Judge found that he ought to have seen where he was going as the manhole was clear from the plywood on it and also the concrete surrounding it. He made a finding of 20 per cent contributory negligence.

An application was made for leave to appeal which was refused; what the Judge was effectively saying was that if the claimant walked normally over a building site, over plywood, which is common on a building site, and then falls, he should be more careful. The case appears to be contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal in Cooper -v- Carrillon plc and an appeal is being considered.

In Quinn -v- St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council the Judge at Liverpool County Court on 10 May 2007 dealt with the case of a learning assistant at school who had placed displays on a classroom wall. To reach the wall she had to stand on a chair and then on a table. She fell as she was descending from the table to the chair. The defendants conceded primary liability but alleged substantial contributory negligence. In particular they said that she failed to use step ladders that were available and of which she was aware.

The claimant was supported by her witnesses who said that the common practice for putting up displays was to do what the claimant did, and they were not aware of available step ladders for this purpose. Nevertheless the Judge reduced the award by 20 per cent.