Hotel appeals public liability claim for timber platform trip

Date: May 23, 2017

A hotel has attempted to overturn a decision that saw a man receive public liability compensation after he tripped over a raised timber platform in the company’s lobby.

The plaintiff received $129,500 for serious injuries he sustained when he failed to spot a display while walking with his sister inside the hotel. He experienced neck, shoulder and back injuries, which he claims have resulted in lasting disabilities.

The trial judge awarded the man the payout after ruling that substantial glare from windows in the lobby made it difficult for patrons to see the platform, which posed a not insignificant tripping risk and wasn’t adequately sign posted.

However, the hotel appealed the decision, arguing that the judge erred when making several findings in the case.

Public liability claim appeal

The appeal challenged various rulings from the original trial, including:

  • That glare prevented the plaintiff from seeing the platform;
  • Whether the risk of injury was foreseeable and not insignificant;
  • Whether the risk was “obvious” in accordance with the Civil Liability Act 2002, thus not requiring a warning;
  • That the plaintiff was not contributorily negligent; and
  • Whether a breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Considerable thought from the appellate judges went into the issue of how glare had affected the plaintiff’s vision as he approached the timber platform.

A photograph of the lobby suggested that a distracting light might have caught the man’s attention, causing him to fall over the corner of the display. The plaintiff said a window or windows to the south of the hotel’s bar area resulted in the glare and contributed to the accident.

However, the appellate judges noted that the issue of glare did not arise in the first trial until the plaintiff’s attention was drawn to it early in his evidence in chief.

Further photographic evidence and expert witness testimony claimed glare was not an issue, resulting in the judges overruling the original decision on this aspect of the case.

Final appeal decision

Despite the judges agreeing that glare was not a significant contributor to the accident, they failed to uphold a number of other parts of the appeal.

It was a complex case, however, with one judge disagreeing with his colleagues on whether the hotel should have warned guests about the risk the platform posed.

Nevertheless, the final decision was that the tripping risk was foreseeable and not insignificant and the hotel had an obligation to warn members of the public of the dangers.

The plaintiff will therefore receive the full $129,500 in compensation for his accident.

Have you suffered a slip, trip or fall in a public place? Please contact our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.