The Claimant is a train driver who was walking along railway lines inspecting a locomotive that another driver was due to drive later that night. His accident happened after midnight and it was completely dark.

These checks are normally done in an area in the depot with good overhead lighting but the previous train driver had “parked” this locomotive in the wrong place in the yard and so our client was sent out to do the checks in this area with no overhead lighting.

He was sent out with a handheld torch only. He started to climb down the other side of the locomotive (which is at least five foot from the ground) to carry on with his inspections. He had put his handheld lamp on the floor of the locomotive as he needed both hands to climb down. As he reached the ground, he picked his lamp up and took 1 or 2 steps before stepping into a hole in the ground. There was evidence that rabbits and other animals had a tendency to dig holes in the ground in this area.

As his foot went into the hole he fractured his ankle. 

We instructed a lighting engineer to comment on the issue of lighting. His report confirmed the lighting in the area where the claimant fell was below industry standard and in fact it was so dark, he struggled to see anything on his site inspection. However, the engineer felt the handheld lamp provided sufficient lighting to see the ground.

We argued you could not consider the ground conditions without considering the lighting conditions – and the opposite: you could not consider whether the lighting was good enough without considering the ground conditions in this area. 

We were successful. 

Finally, the Judge held that, in addition to all of the above, you should consider the lighting in the area and this was not good enough for the activity the claimant was carrying out when he fell.

No finding of contributory negligence as judge held it is not negligent to fail to see a hole when you only have a lamp, which he agreed would be good enough if you were pointing it at the ground, but that is not what the claimant was doing when he fell.

Cambridge CC