• In the case of Ferguson v Welsh 1987 1 WLR 1553, it was found that an occupier will not be liable for a sub contractor’s dangerous conduct.

Facts of the Case

  • A council contracted with S for the demolition of a building on the site of a housing scheme.
  • In breach of an express prohibition, S sub-contracted to W, who employed an unsafe system of work which caused injury to F, W’s employee.
  •  F sued W, S and the council, but neither W nor S had public liability insurance. The case against the council was dismissed.

Issues in Ferguson v Welsh 1987 1 WLR 1553

  • Did the district council owe a duty of care?

Held by House of Lords

  • District Council not liable.

Lord Keith

  • Here, it was found that in the absence of special circumstances, an occupier would not be liable for the unsafe system of work of a sub-contractor since he could reasonably be expected to supervise it.
  • F’s injury did not arise from any ‘use’ by him of the said premises within the Occupiers liability Act 1957 s.2(2) and as a result the appeal must be dismissed.

Lord Goff

  • “I am content to assume, for the purposes of the present appeal, that there is evidence capable of establishing that Mr. Spence did have the ostensible authority of the council to allow the Welsh brothers (and, through them, Mr. Ferguson) onto the land. Even so, in my judgment Mr. Ferguson’s action against the council must fail because I cannot see how the council could be held liable to him, in particular under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.” Pg 1563