Keown v Coventry Healthcare NHS Trust

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Keown v Coventry Healthcare NHS Trust [2006] 1 WLR 953

Tort law – Trespass – Occupiers’ liability

Facts

Keown was an eleven-year-old child who had been climbing an external fire escape, from the underside, at the defendant’s hospital trust when he fell and fractured his arm and suffered a brain injury. The fire escape was part of the hospital grounds and was used by the public for both access and was a known area where children liked to play. The trial judge held that there was a danger caused by the state of the premises in accordance with the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984, section 1. He held that the claimant was two-thirds responsible. The decision was subsequently appealed.

Issue

The claim for damages was based on the fact that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 to ensure that the claimant did not suffer injuries as a result of danger on the premises. It was important to understand to what extent the child should have recognised the danger in the circumstances and the fact that he was not using the equipment as it should have been.

Held

The court allowed the appeal. The court held that if the claimant had been an adult, they would have found in favour of the hospital trust. The judge found that the claimant understood the risk or the fact that what he was doing was dangerous. On this basis, he did not satisfy the Occupier’s Liability Act 1984, section 1 which required there was a risk of injury of any danger caused by the state of the premises. If a person opted to climb the external fire escape improperly, thus creating the danger themselves, the health trust could not be liable.

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