Thursday, February 9th, 2023

Karla Hodgson v Castlehill Housing Association Ltd [2023] SC EDIN 5

Sheriff Keir recently issued his Opinion in Karla Hodgson v Castlehill Housing Association Ltd where he found for the Pursuer, who lost her footing on and fell down an unlit set of steps on the Defenders’ premises. Occupiers’ liability cases are never easy to predict, but the Sheriff held that the steps were a “danger”, on the basis of independent eye-witness evidence and expert evidence that the level of illumination fell far below relevant British Standard levels.

In terms of the duty of care and the Defenders' breach, the Pursuer made submissions on two grounds. Firstly, even in the absence of evidence about prior complaints or accidents, the danger was so obvious that the steps ought to have been illuminated. Secondly, the Defenders’ Property Services Manager having previously attended the premises in darkness, seen how dark the steps were and being aware that the handrail stopped short of the bottom of the steps (which gave the Pursuer the false impression that she had reached the bottom, causing her to step out and lose her footing), the Defenders were fixed with actual knowledge of the danger, which mandated the installation of dedicated lighting – as, in fact, happened after the accident.

The Sheriff rejected the first ground, but found in favour of the Pursuer on the second, and awarded damages for the traumatic fracture dislocation of her right shoulder.

Graeme Middleton KC represented the Pursuer and Steve Laing represented the Defender. A copy of the Judgment can be found here.

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