For many years claimant solicitors have been able to rely on a group of Statutory Regulations to establish civil liability in a claim. The Regulations covered the workplace, manual handling, work equipment and personal protective equipment – the areas where most work accidents occur.
In some instances the mere fact that a piece of work equipment failed, gave rise to strict liability and a claim. The classic case was Stark v The Post Office where a claimant was injured due to a defect in his bike which his employers could never have found. So even though his employers did nothing wrong they were found in law to be liable and the claimant won.
This all changed on the 1st October 2013. Now a claimant has to prove by relying on common law that there was a sufficient known danger to place the employer under a duty to take steps to ameliorate that danger and that the employer’s actions fell below what was reasonable.
So the case of Stark v Post Office would not succeed today because the employers could not have found the defect and therefore could not have taken steps to prevent it.
And why have we come full circle? Because having had a very long career in personal injury law I am now practising by going back to the old common law grounds of fault I used to rely on many years ago. I am extending my investigations by looking at HSE Guidance, Approved Codes of Conduct, British Standards and Manufacturers Guidance and I may be relying more on Health and Safety Experts.
Even my favourite and classic authority on work place accidents Munkman on Employer’s Liability 16th Edition has been rewritten incorporating passages from much older editions with cases on common law negligence which were removed when the Regulations came in.
How the law has come full circle!