Clark Fixing Ltd v Dudley

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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Clark Fixing Ltd v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council [2001] EWCA Civ 1898

NEGLIGENCE, DUTY OF CARE, DAMAGE TO PROPERTY, FORESEEABILITY, TRESPASS TO PROPERTY, LOCAL AUTHORITIES’ DUTIES,

VANDALISM, FIRE PRECAUTIONS

Facts

The defendant, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (Dudley MBC), appealed a decision that it was liable in negligence for damage caused by fire to premises adjoining an empty property which it had compulsorily acquired. The premises adjoining the building in question shared a common wooden roof with it by which the fire had spread. The building had been subject to previous acts of vandalism, including the starting of fires and Dudley MBC was aware of this.

Issue

Does the owner of a property owe a duty of care to the adjoining occupiers in respect of acts of trespass on his property resulting in damage to the adjoining properties when the owner had knowledge that a third party had created a risk of fire?

Held

The appeal was dismissed.

(1) Following the decision in Smith v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd [1987] UKHL 18, in which the defendant was found innocent as they had no knowledge of the risk of vandals starting fires, as Dudley MBC had knowledge or the means of knowledge that third parties had been creating fires in the property, it was liable for the damages caused to the properties of the owners of the adjoining premises.

(2) The MBC should have carried out investigations into the presence of combustible materials within the property and removed all such materials where possible as the risk of fire spreading was obvious to any individual who was responsible for carrying out fire safety assessments.

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