Slip and Trip Accident

A bus driver slipped on ice outside his apartment and sued the apartment management company for injuries he sustained.


His apartment was on the first floor and led to an open-air external landing. From there a stairway to the ground floor. The plaintiff left his apartment to go to work at 5:30 a.m. I had been a cold night. There was a light over his front door but because of water ingress, it wasn’t working. As he stepped onto the landing he slipped on black ice and fell down the stairs and fractured an elbow. He sued the management company for negligence in that they failed to operate an adequate system of cleaning, that the landing should have been gritted and that the accident could have been avoided by nosing trips on the steps and if the external light had been working.

In the High Court hearing, it was established that the plaintiff could see that the ground outside his apartment was wet and that the external light above his door was the plaintiff’s own responsibility.

The defendant management company gave evidence that a property management company would have provided gritting services if asked to do so. However, none of the property management company’s 98 developments required gritting on footpaths or steps.

The judge found that the pathway was the control of the defendants, and they had a duty to grit the areas to avoid accidents.

It was held that nosing strips would have assisted the plaintiff in preventing his fall and that water dripping into the light may have resulted in the formation of ice. The plaintiff was awarded €60,000 for his injuries.

The defendants’ appealed and the court reversed the decision. The court found that the plaintiff, not the apartment management company, was responsible for the light above his apartment door. The cause of the ice was not determined so could not be attributed to any party.

Regarding the claim that the defendants failed to keep the common area free from excess water, this the court found was never part of the plaintiff’s case and, as such, this finding could not stand.

The lighting issue was only particularised the day before the trial and the remaining issues were not pleaded at all. The court held that this was inappropriate and emphasised that parties were required to provide full and detailed particulars of each allegation or assertion comprising the claim.

The court accepted that the defendants were not necessarily taken by surprise by the gritting issue given that there was an expert report on the subject. However, expert reports were not a substitute for pleadings and parties were still obliged to properly plead the case they wished to make at trial.

The alleged obligation to grit pedestrian areas in anticipation of adverse weather was an unreasonable duty to place on occupiers, the court said. The court also noted that the plaintiff was a member of the management company, but gritting services were not supplied.

The court held that the trial judge was incorrect to find that the defendants were liable for the accident. The appeal was allowed and the €60,000 award was overturned.

Ahmed v. Castlegrange Management Company Limited by Guarantee IECA 269


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