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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10006
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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My mum owns a coachhouse flat with a shared entrance and

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My mum owns a coachhouse flat with a shared entrance and staircase with one other. Yesterday she received a text from her neighbour saying that a friend of hers had tripped and fallen over a door mat and that he was injured badly and as he was self employed he would be suing my mother for loss of earnings as it was her mat. Can he do this?. My mother is sick with worry? Surely door mats are door mats for a reason. Thankyou Lisa

Hello for clarification your mothers neighbours friend tripped in the shared area - is this correct? and is saying he is going to sue is this correct?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
correct on both counts
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
My mother wasn't home at the time but she was told by her neighbour to check her insurance and the neighbour is refusing to talk to her about it.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Did you get my response?

I’m afraid this isn’t a chat service so you are unlikely to get an instant reply although sometimes it were online, we will get straight to you. Other times there may be a delay as we have other users, clients and travelling et cetera.

Is this your mother’s mat?

Is there anything wrong with the mat or could it in any way be deemed to be defective such as curling up at the edges or slippy it would create any kind of hazard?

If this mat belongs to your mother, does she have permission to put it in the shared entrance?

How long has the mat been in place for?

Does she have any details about the nature of the injuries?

Does she have insurance for this?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
the mat belonged to my mother. It's a new mat and has been in place since day one. Which was back in march this year
Mum moved into the new builds first and her neighbour (who is merely running a business at her flat and has never officially moved in) followed later. My mother consulted her neighbour about all items in the communal hall /stairs and indeed her neighbour had placed a mat at the top of the stairs too as well as numerous items outside the door.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Her mat was swiftly removed by the time my mum got home yesterday.
Thanks
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
We have no idea who the friend was or what injuries if any were sustained.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
She has buildings and contents insurance but not sure if this would cover her communal area.

Thank you.

Firstly, your mother needs the mat back.

It doesn’t belong to whoever is taking it and she wants it back. If whoever has it will not give it to her, because it’s theft.

She needs to ascertain whether a normal person would trip on the mat (and would be the case if it did not lie completely flat) and there is already caselaw which says that the “trip” (not the height of the mat) must be 25 mm or more and that is the diameter of a 2p coin. It makes it easy to measure.

Assuming there is something wrong with the mat and that the neighbour friend didn’t simply trip over his/her own feet, then your mother is liable in negligence.

At the moment she can do very little because she doesn’t know the nature of the claim but it is essential that she gets the mat back just in case the neighbour is unethical and tries to “doctor it” to make it look defective.

Incidentally, your mother had no right to put this mat where it was any more than the other neighbour has any right to put that mat in place also. Your mother has no rights to do this in the common parts.

There are potentially three people here who would be liable but only of the mat is found to be defective and created the hazard.

They would be your mother for putting the mat there, the neighbour (they are not going to like that very much) for allowing it and agreeing for it to be put there (your mother was just the agent of the neighbour in that respect) and also the freeholder/managing agent because they maintain the common parts and they are classed as the occupier. The relevant legislation is the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

Until you hear anything from the neighbours friend, there is very little that your mother can do.

.Can I clarify anything else for you? I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

Please take a moment to look at the top right hand corner of the page and rate my service by clicking one of the stars at the top of the screen. It’s important you use the rating service because that gives me credit. It doesn’t just give me a pat on the head! All you need to do is press Submit. Thank you.

If you still need any point clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.

Best wishes.

FES.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The mat is now outside my mum's door. I shall tell her to bring it in. There really is nothing wrong with it at all. There is no management company the property is free hold. They are supposed to maintain these areas jointly?. There has been many an item like mop.and buckets and rubbish that the neighbour has left out without consent for weeks at a time. The mat that has disappeared is the one the neighbour put out. Sorry this all sounds rather petty but my mother is so upset.

Thank you.

Please don’t think this is petty at all. Depending on the nature of these alleged injuries, it could be quite serious although if it was, you would have thought that the neighbour or the alleged injured person would be kicking up more of a fuss. Please don’t think that this is trifling at all.

Just let me explain the legal situation for claiming negligence.

1 There has to be a duty of care (there is)

2 the duty of care has to be breached (there is no evidence of this in the mat would have to be shown to be defective.)

3 As a result of the (potential) breach, a claimant has to suffer loss

4 the loss must be reasonably foreseeable.

So for example whilst the loss of income as a result of any negligence may be reasonably foreseeable, the loss of the cost of a holiday which they can’t go on is not reasonably foreseeable.

Just because someone tripped on a mat (2 above) doesn’t necessarily mean that the duty has been breached. It would be breached if the mat was defective such that it created a trip hazard.

If the mat has has been there for some months, then that is a big argument that the freeholder has a large responsibility here. They’ve allowed this to remain in place but no about it. If your mother and the other flat owner owned the freehold jointly, then they are in effect suing themselves!

Your mother may have some leverage here if the lease of the property does not allow the neighbour to run a business from the flat or if she would ordinarily need planning permission (depends on the nature of the business), because although your mother may or may not be at fault, she may be able to “persuade” the neighbour to persuade the friend to drop the claim in exchange for not raising an issue with the freeholder or the local authority about any breach in the lease (it would be necessary to check the lease or breach of planning consent (depending on the business). Your mother needs to make sure that it doesn’t come out as blackmail. Your mother needs to check the lease.

I apologise in respect of the comment I made about getting the mat back. I see that it was the neighbours mat which has now quickly disappeared! Potentially a wise pre-emptive in these circumstances.

There may not be a management company but there is a freeholder and put the word freeholder in place of my reference to management company in the previous response.

Before you go (you can come back at any time), please don’t forget to use the rating service because that gives me credit. It doesn’t just give me a pat on the head! The thread remains open. We can still exchange emails.

Kind regards.

FES

F E Smith and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you so much and was helpful. I will be back to you when and if we receive the letter.