Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED December 11, 2003

A caravan park proprietor was not in breach of the common duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 where a visitor twisted his knee in a natural gully on the site.The claimant ('G') sought damages from the proprietors ('H') of a caravan park for a knee injury. G had been walking on a grassy area between two caravans on H's caravan park when he put his left foot into a hole or hollow obscured by grass and fell to the ground. There was no immediate report of a hole to H following the accident. The site was situated in unspoilt and undeveloped surroundings, although there had been some landscaping and a series of roads and pathways had been provided around the site. The contemporaneous evidence and particulars of claim described a twisting injury. However, following an MRI scan almost three years after the accident, G reported that his knee had hit the grass "front on" with considerable force. G's disability, beyond the initial short term effects, arose from pre-existing conditions. His claim was based on an acceleration of the symptoms of those conditions. According to expert evidence a twisting injury could have produced symptoms, however the degree of acceleration would not have been so great as with a direct forceful blow to the knee. G admitted having been involved in various forms of benefit fraud in the past. G contended that the contemporaneous recording of the mechanics of the accident had been confused and the actual circumstances were as subsequently reported by him.HELD: (1) The hole in which G had placed his foot was a natural gully that was within the range of features reasonably to be expected on the site. It was unreasonable and unnecessarily burdensome to expect H to have filled in such gullies. It would also destroy a part of the character of the site. Therefore H had not breached the common duty of care under s.2 Occupiers Liability Act 1957. (2) G's evidence as to the mechanics of the fall was not impressive and would not be accepted where it conflicted with contemporaneous written records or the recollection of others. The account of a hard blow to the knee was not supported by any of the contemporaneous evidence. The accident had occurred when G had placed his foot in the hole and lost his balance, falling forward and to his left side, resulting in a twisting injury. Had H been held to be in breach of the common duty of care, it would only have been liable for the consequences of the twisting injury, without direct force being applied to G's knee.