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Woman Injured Climbing Stairs Backwards Sues

A woman has sued her Landlord in the English High Court for a six figure sum after falling down a set of outside stairs. Gillian Drysdale fell whilst walking backwards up the stairs, in the rain, carrying a heavy load. As a consequence of the fall, Ms Drysdale broke her back and has been left with serious mobility issues.

Ms Drysdale’s QC argued that her landlord owed her a duty of care, and failed to discharge that duty by not providing a suitable handrail and by painting the naturally rough surface of the stairs with a smooth, slippery paint. The Landlord’s QC, however, argued that the real cause of the accident was that Ms Drysdale wasn’t looking where she was going.

Judgement in the case has been reserved and is expected shortly. While it is likely that the court will hold that a Landlord does owe a duty of care to a Tenant, it appears that the main issue for it to determine is whether or not Ms Drysdale’s conduct was causative of the action and, if it was not, to what extent, if any, it contributed to the accident. What view will be taken is not yet clear, although in a 2003 case in England it was held that there was liability where a handrail wasn’t provided.

However, parallels can also be drawn between this case and a recent Scottish decision [Clark v Quantum Claims] where a woman fell down stairs in an Aberdeen Office, which she alleged were dangerously steep. In that case, it was held that although the failure to provide a banister was a breach of the relevant law, it was not causative of the accident.

Given the rather more unusual circumstances of Ms Drysdale’s case, the decision is awaited with interest.

For more information on this developing area of the law, please contact Lewis McDonald.

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