TO: John Hillman, Lawyer; Hillman Advocates.
FROM: Stephen Lewis, Manager; Ravers Night Club.
DATE: March 3, 2014.
SUBJECT: Request for Legal Opinion.
Rebecca Jones, a regular customer to our night club recently got injured in our premises during one of her visits. Her injury was caused when she accidentally stepped on a rubber ball left on the floor by other customers who were playing bocce ball with them. She fell and broke her ankle as a result. The customers usually get careless with these small rubber balls and leave them scattered over the floor especially after getting intoxicated. Due to the seriousness of her injury, I have been informed by her lawyer that she intend to press charges against our club soon therefore I ask for your legal opinion on any defenses available to us against this suit.
From legal research I have conducted, I have learnt that legally, an owner of business premises is under legal duty to keep his premises safe for invitees, licensees and even trespassers. According to Shubert (427), invitees are those with implied permission to enter the business premises. They come into the premises for the purposes for which they were built. Licensees are those that come into the premises by either implied or express permission of the owner such as suppliers and sales people and trespassers are those that enter premises with no permission at all. Based on this, Miss Jones can be categorized as a business invitee for she came into the club as a customer as she has always been doing. A business owner is expected to practice the best duty of care to business invitees, a category in which Miss Jones belongs. The owner must inspect the business building and ensure that it is free of all risks including those that are obvious and those that could be hidden. In those sections of the premises that are likely to pose a risk to business invitees such as slippery surfaces, he the owner of the business must display warning signs that alert the visitors of possible dangers (Cohen & Abele, 152).
However, Miss Jones is a regular visitor to our premises thus she was obviously aware that there is a tradition of playing bocce ball in the club therefore she ought to have been more careful while walking across the floor to avoid stepping on misplaced balls. Rationally, we do expect our customer to exercise some duty of care to ensure that their properties and themselves are safe while within the club. This reasoning is consistent with section 3(b) of the Occupiers Liability Act of 1957 which provides that the owner or occupier of a premise may expect that a visitor while within the premises for the purposes for which he or she is, to appreciate and practice due care against special risks that may be there and she or he is aware of as long as the owner puts him or her under free will to do that. Thus Miss Jones being aware that balls are often left lying around the floor had a duty to appreciate the imminent risk being posed by their presence and she was under free will to avoid stepping on them and could even behave more responsibly by picking them up and placing them in the right place.
In a similar case published on Louisiana’s Legal Journal, a woman has sued Wal-Mart Stores for injuries sustained when she slipped on a fluid left on the floor and fell while she was shopping at a store owned by the company (Barnet). In her suit she claims that the defendant failed to supervise and maintain common areas and gangways in a safe condition and in effect failed to comply with state laws. Miss Jones could possibly press similar charges against our business. However, our premises are always maintained to the highest safety standards. The balls being on the floor was as a result of intoxicated customers’ carelessness and thus clearly not our fault. Intoxicated persons are known of their inability to act responsibly and reasonable persons ought to practice extra care while around them.
In conclusion, according to e-lawresources.co.uk, several defenses are available under Occupiers Liability Act. Under Volenti non fit injuria defense, the accused can claim that the plaintiff willingly accepted the risk like in this case, Miss Jones possibly knew that balls were left on that area of the floor yet she walked through it any anyway or under contributory negligence principle, the extent of our contribution towards the injury could be reduced because Miss Jones failed to practice reasonable care for her safety thus she contributed to her own injury. Kindly assist with your legal opinion on this matter. I am aware that we are under legal obligation to keep the night club safe for our customers yet due to circumstances beyond our control we cannot keep it absolutely safe. Please advise if we can use any of the defenses stated above against Miss Jones’ lawsuit.
Barnet, Kyle “Woman who lost job allegedly due to injuries suffered at Wal-Mart sues” Louisiana’s Legal Journal 21 February 2014. Web. 3 March 2014.
Cohen, Harvey H., Abele Jon R. Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences Tucson, AZ:
Lawyers & Judges Publishing Inc. 2007. 152. Web. 3 March 2014,
Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 legislation.gov.uk n.d. Web. 3 March 2014.
Occupiers Liability e-lawresources.co.uk n.d. Web 3 March 2014.
Schubert, Frank Introduction to Law and Legal System Stanford, CT: Cengage Learning. 2014. 427. Web. 3 March 2014.