• In the case of Keown v Coventry NHS Trust [2006] 1 WLR 953, where C puts himself at danger, where previously C was not at risk of suffering injury by reason of any danger due to the state of the premises within the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 s.1(1)(a), the duty upon D may be limited due to C’s contributory negligence (regardless of whether C was a minor or an adult)

Facts of the Case

  • In October 1995, the 11-year-old C climbed the underside of an external metal fire escape of an accommodation block of a hospital; D was the owner of that hospital
  • C fell from 30 ft, fractured his arm, suffered a brain injury and all this led to loss of intellectual functioning and a change in C’s personality
  • The hospital’s premises were used as a means of accessing streets on either side, so it was not uncommon to see children playing around
  • C had claimed on the basis that D owed him a duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 19841 to take reasonable care in all circumstances and prevent children from going to the fire exit, which the hospital knew was an allurement to children
  • During the trial, D was held liable for 1/3 of the injuries suffered and C for 2/3 due to being a trespasser

Issues in Keown v Coventry NHS Trust [2006] 1 WLR 953

  • Claim for damages for personal injuries suffered and losses and expenses incurred as a result of the accident

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • Appeal allowed – the question here was whether the premises (i.e. the fire exit) themselves posed any danger and not where under s.1(1)(a) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984, there was a risk of suffering injury due to the state of the premises; C’s age was not relevant

Longmore LJ

Allowed the appeal as C had not passed the threshold requirement under s.1(1)(a) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984

  • ‘In these circumstances it cannot be said that Mr Keown did not recognise the danger and it does not seem to me to be seriously arguable that the risk arose out of the state of the premises which were as one would expect them to be. Rather it arose out of what Mr Keown chose to do.’ [at paragraph 12]

Lewison J

Agreed with Longmore LJ’s reasoning and allowed the appeal; the final judge – Mummery LJ – also agreed with both draft speeches of Lewison J and Longmore LJ

  • ‘In the present case there was nothing inherently dangerous about the fire escape. There was no physical defect in it: no element of disrepair or structural deficiency. Nor was there any hidden danger. The only danger arose from the activity of Mr Keown in choosing to climb up the outside, knowing that it was dangerous to do so.’ [at paragraph 29]