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Slip and trip florist judgment reveals duty of care danger

Piccolo v (1) Larkstock (t/a Chiltern Flowers) (2) Chiltern Railway Co and others (Queen's Bench Division - 17 July 2007)

The claimant slipped on flower petals while walking through the concourse of Marylebone station and suffered a serious injury.

He issued proceedings against the owners of the flower stall and the station, among others, alleging that they had failed in their duty of care to take reasonable and effective steps to avoid the risk to pedestrians of accidents, such as slipping on petals.

In particular, he submitted that the florist had failed to operate a safe cleaning system, and that the station owners ought to have taken such steps as were necessary to ensure that the florist kept the concourse clean and safe.

The court concluded that the florist had failed in its duty. Although it was accepted that it was not possible to keep the floor dry and petal free at all times, the 'clean as you go' system operated by the florist was insufficient.

It was a purely reactive system, whereas the risk of injury from fallen petals was such that a proactive system was required with supervision and regular checking of the concourse.

However, the claim against the station owners failed. They had discharged their duty of care as occupiers through regular urgings and correspondence with the florist, and contractual obligations to keep the premises clean and tidy contained in the lease. Allegations of contributory negligence against the claimant were dismissed.

The case is subject to an appeal by the florist.

COMMENT

The judgment contains no new duty for occupiers but provides useful observations on the cleaning systems a court will expect in slip and trip cases. It also shows that a landlord will be held to have discharged its duty if the steps taken are of the required standard and well documented. - David Armstrong, BLM London.

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