Occupiers Liability Update

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When it was inflated, people could walk through the tunnels and voids created between the units and enjoy listening to music.  The structure had been installed in a park for which the Local Authority was responsible and it had been tethered to the ground by ropes.  Whilst the structure was open to the public and people were inside it, a gust of wind caused it to break free from its anchorage and lifted it into the air.  Two people inside it died and others were injured, so this was a catastrophic accident.

The Local Authority had accepted liability for the claims on the basis that it had not carried out a proper risk assessment, and they paid compensation to the injured parties.

The Local Authority then asked the Court to decide whether the organisers of the Event, Brouhaha International Ltd and/or the designer of the structure Maurice Agis should share the liability for paying compensation.

The Court decided that the organiser, Brouhaha International Ltd were an occupier of the structure for the purposes of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.  Its employees played an active and central role in the construction of the structure under the direction of Maurice Agis.  They transported the structure to the site and erected it.  Their employees acted as stewards and had some control, with Maurice Agis, as to who could enter the structure and how they behaved.    The Court held that Brouhaha International Ltd should have appreciated the risk of injury and carried out its own risk assessments.  The risk assessment provided to Brouhaha International Ltd by Maurice Agis was inadequate. Brouhaha International Ltd also had experience from their involvement in a previous exhibition about the potential instability of the structure in windy conditions.

The Court held that both the Local Authority and Brouhaha International Ltd were at fault.  Because of Brouhaha International Ltd's previous experience and knowledge of the structure instability in windy weather, they had a slightly higher level of responsibility and therefore they were found to be 55% liable whereas the Local Authority was 45% liable. 

The only issue that the Court had to decide in this case was the apportionment of the compensation between the Defendants.

See our earlier article for more information on Occupiers Liability

Julia Prior

Senior solicitor - Personal Injury team

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