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Latimer v AEC Ltd [1953] AC 643

Law of Tort – Negligence – Duty of Care – Damages – Reasonable Person

Facts

The defendant Mr Latimer, worked in a factory owned by the defendants, AEC Ltd. The factory had become flooded due to adverse weather, which caused the floor to become very slippery. In response, the defendants mopped up, put out warning signs for a slippery floor and placed sawdust on the floor to make the area as safe as possible for the workers. The complainant was working on nightshift after the flooding and when he was moving a heavy barrel, the slipperiness of the floor caused him to fall. He fell on his back and the barrel proceeded to crush his ankle.

Issues

The trial judge had held that the defendants were in breach of their common law duty of care and were liable for damages. The defendants appealed this decision. The issues of this case surrounded the seriousness of the factory conditions and address the question; if all possible safety measures had been completed to protect workers, should the defendants have closed the factory down.

Held

The appeal was allowed. It was held that the defendants had not been negligent and they had taken all reasonable precautions that could have taken to minimise any possibility of risk to their employees. Thus, there was no breach of their duty of care and it was not reasonable to shut down the entire factory. This case states that an employer only had to take steps to minimise risk that a reasonable person would do in the circumstances.


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