Tomlinson v Congleton BC and another

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Last modified: 12/10/18 Author: In-house law team

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Tomlinson v Congleton BC and another [2003] 3 WLR 705

The obligation placed on occupiers with regards to injuries caused on their property


The defendants owned and managed a lake that was formed from a disused quarry. The lake was very popular in warm weather. Swimming in the lake was forbidden and the defendants placed signs warning visitors of the dangers of swimming and also employed wardens to provide oral warnings. The defendants were however, aware that the signs were often ignored and that swimming carried on in the lake. The claimant went to the lake on a sunny day and, standing in shallow water, decided to dive into the lake, whereby he hit his head on the bottom and broke his neck. The claimant argued that the defendants owed him a duty as a trespasser under section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984. The claim was dismissed at first instance, with this decision overturned on appeal. The defendants appealed to the House of Lords.


The issue in this context was whether the defendants owed a duty to the claimant under the 1984 Act and, if so, whether this duty was satisfied.


It was held that the defendants did not owe a duty under the 1984 Act to the claimant. A duty would only arise in circumstances where the risk of injury arose out of a danger due to the state of defendants’ premises or things done or omitted to be done on it. This risk was caused by the claimant’s misjudgement and therefore, because the claimant was of full capacity and able to make an informed decision, was not a risk importing a duty on the defendant. Furthermore, it was not a risk that the defendant was required to provide protection for the claimant from.

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