IRL High Court rules installation of a glass door which caused injury was not negligence.

Newman -v- Cogan & Anor

O’Neill J ruled that that the defendants had not failed, pursuant to s. 3 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1995, to take reasonable care in respect of the plaintiff, a visitor on the premises, to ensure that the plaintiff did not suffer injury or damage by reason of any danger existing on the premises after the plaintiff suffered the loss of an eye due to shards of glass entering her eye when a door pane was smashed.

The plaintiff sought to rely on the case of Wells v. Cooper [1958] 2 Q.B. 265, a decision of the United Kingdom Court of Appeal in which it was held as follows as revealed in the head note:-

“Held dismissing the appeal,
(1) That on either ground of action the duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff was a duty to take reasonable care for safety.

(2) That, in the case of such a trifling domestic replacement, a man of the defendant’s experience was justified in undertaking it himself.

(3) That the degree of care and skill required of a householder undertaking his own repairs was to be measured not by reference to his own degree of personal competence, but by reference to the degree of care and skill which a reasonably skilled carpenter might be expected to apply to the work in question.

(4) That, since the defendant, a reasonably competent carpenter, was doing his best to make the handles secure, he must be taken to have discharged his duty of care unless his belief that three quarter inch screws would be adequate was one which no reasonably competent carpenter would reasonably entertain, and the evidence failed to establish that.

Per curiam. The decision did not mean that the degree of skill and care required of an inviter such as the defendant was to be measured by the contractual obligations as to the quality of his work assumed by a professional carpenter working for reward, which was of a higher standard.”

The Judge ruled however, that it could not reasonably be suggested that a householder who elects to carry out a relatively simple repair, such as the replacement of a pane of glass, could be expected to be familiar with the technical standards set down in the technical guidelines associated with the Building Regulations. Thus, it could not be said that a householder, who was a reasonably competent glazier, such as the first named defendant, could not have reasonably believed that the glass chosen was suitable for this location.

O’Neill J also commented that to hold the defendant liable in negligence for installing this door pane this would be to impose upon the defendants a duty of care which would be artificial and which, in all probability, they had no real chance of discharging. Thus, in choosing this particular type of glass, which is in common usage in dwellings, it could not reasonably be said that the defendant failed in his duty as occupier of this premises, to the plaintiff, to take reasonable care to protect her from dangers on the premises.

The full judgement can be read here:

S.Major, Lacey Solicitors