Tomlinson v Congleton BC 2003

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Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council
CourtHouse of lords
Full case nameTomlinson v Congleton Borough Council and others
Decided31 July 2003
Citation(s)[2003] UKHL 47; [2004] 1 A.C. 46; [2003] 3 W.L.R. 705; [2003] 3 All E.R. 1122; [2004] P.I.Q.R. P8; [2003] 32 E.G. 68 (C.S.); (2003) 100(34) L.S.G. 33; (2003) 153 N.L.J. 1238; (2003) 147 S.J.L.B. 937; [2003] N.P.C. 102
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingLord Nicholls of Birkenhead; Lord Hoffmann; Lord Hutton; Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough; Lord Scott of Foscote
Trespassers, occupiers liability, standard of care

[2003] 1 AC 46. The claimant suffered severe injuries when he dived into a shallow lake in a pond managed by the defendant local authority and struck his head. The substance of his claim was that he was owed aduty of care under the OccupiersLiabilityAct1984; although he was a trespasser (although there was some disagreement on that point), the authority were aware of the danger, and had taken inadequate steps to prevent it. It emerged that the lake had been the site of other accidents, and that the authority planned to plant vegetation around it to keep people out.

At first instance, the trial judge held that, although the 1984 was engaged, the danger was not one which the defendant had a duty to protect against. The Court of Appeal decided for the claimant, by a majority. It was held that the defendants could have done more than they did to keep people out of the lake; therefore, the accident was the result of 'something done or not done' by the defendant. The House of lords restored the verdict of the trial judge, unanimously but with some expressed reservation.

The central theme of the Lords' ruling is that the cause of the claimant's injury was his own folly, not something that the defendants did or failed to do. The danger of the lake was obvious, and the authority had erected signs to that effect, and had directed its park staff to eject people from the lake if they were found there. There could be no dount that the claimant had known of the danger, and that he must therefore have been deemed to have accepted it voluntarily.