How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Remus2004 Your Own Question
Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 71130
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
Type Your Property Law Question Here...
Remus2004 is online now

I lease a commercial property. My business is on the second

This answer was rated:

I lease a commercial property. My business is on the second floor. There was a power cut yesterday afternoon. We have emergency low level lighting on the stairs and there was a halogen light placed on a bottom step before a landing and a wind up light that was going out. We told all our customers to be careful twice going down the stairs. A customer fell and injured her knees and shins. Said it was dark and thought the bottom step was the landing. It wasn't pitch dark and she knew about the power cut as she had known about it on the way in and was told be careful twice on the way out. Are we liable ? Is the landlord liable ?
Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Did you tell her on the way out to be careful in the dark?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Yes. Told her to be careful on the stairs
Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 you have a duty to keep lawful visitors to your property safe from harm.

It comes down therefore to whether telling them to be careful on the way out is sufficient to discharge your duty.

Putting a sign down which says "wet floor" is not sufficient to discharge a duty, for example on a wet floor.

There is case law on that.

However putting a sign down which says "wet floor, danger of slipping, take care," has been deemed to be sufficient.

If therefore you said be careful on the dark stairs it is debatable whether that is sufficient.

If however you said be careful on the dark stairs because there is a power cut and you need to take extra care to avoid tripping, I think that is as much as you could have done.

You also, quite rightly, make the point that the visitor was on notice of the power cut and the nature of the stairs because she had negotiated them on the way in.

If you had put a sign at the bottom of the stairs, "power cut, danger of tripping, take care on the stairs”, I think that would get you off the hook.

If she has not broken anything, then soft tissue injuries are not worth many thousands of pounds and she may not find a solicitor who would take this on on a no win no fee basis quite simply because it is not worthwhile.

That is not to say that you may not get an initial solicitors letter even though if it eventually went to court, the claim would fail.

If you do get a claim, pass it on to your insurers to deal with.

From what you have said, I think there is a potential claim for you to defend if the lady decides to see a solicitor although I think it's 50-50 as to whether it would be successful if it ever went to court.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for that jo. As we lease the clinic (the second floor) the stairs are a communal area. Is the landlord negligent for this or are we? As the landlord may not have provided sufficient lighting in the event of a power cut.
If the landlord is responsible for the common parts and the stairs are defined as common parts, it is likely to be the landlord who is liable although there have been many court cases on who is defined as "the occupier".

Several of you use the stairs because there is more than one business on the second floor, you may have a joint liability with whoever else is "the occupier".

The occupier is not necessarily one person but can be several.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your reply. We are the only business on the second floor. There is an accountants on the first floor. There are only 2 businesses ie my business and the accountants using this part of the building and the businesses clients. Would we be the occupier?
It would appear that only you use the stairs and therefore you would be the occupier.

It depends on exactly the mechanism of the accident and what this woman tripped on as to whether the claim would be against you and the other occupier jointly or just against you.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that I think it is looking more and more like the claim is against you as the occupier.

I'm sorry that this is bad news for you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
She didn't trip on anything but thought that the bottom step was the landing so walked as if it was the landing but fell.
Yes, I understand.

I accept that was the mechanic of the accident, however the outcome of this will depend on the view the judge takes on the day if every gets to court if the lady pursues it.

The fact remains that there was inadequate lighting.

There is case law with inadequate lighting on stairs in a block of flats (communal area) although the name of the case escapes me.

That probably will assist you if ever this gets to court.

It is quite a famous case which is one where the court had to decide who the occupier was.

There were council flats and the occupier was deemed to be the Council because they had responsibility for the area.
Remus2004 and other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you for the positive rating and remember that I am always available to help with your questions. For future information, please start your question with ‘FOR JO C’. You can also bookmark my profile

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks jo. Is it just a case of wait to see what she does or should I call her to see how she is? Had called this morning and left a message to say it was a courtesy call just to check how she was after yesterday.
If you have called once, I would leave it at that.

You are faced with waiting to see what happens, if anything