Occupiers liability – slippery steps at home – defendant’s appeal dismissed

Silwood v Chandler [2016] QCA 273

Further to the earlier post the appeal was dismissed.

Atkinson J with whom Margaret McMurdo P and Gotterson JA agreed:

[30] The judge’s findings of fact were thoroughly explained and well justified. There is no occasion for this court to substitute different findings. Those facts are: the steps were wet; the appellant had made them wet by hosing the wall above them; the steps were slippery when wet if approached at an angle; the appellant knew the respondent would be using the steps that night; it was entirely predictable that she would approach the steps by a direct route and therefore at an angle; the respondent had not turned on a light that would illuminate the steps; the steps were wet, slippery and in darkness; the appellant knew, and the respondent did not know nor had any reason to think given that the weather was fine, that the steps were wet. Unsurprisingly, the respondent slipped on the steps. Had the appellant thought about it he would have realised that the steps were wet and slippery. A reasonable response to that situation was to dry the steps, to warn the respondent of the risk, or at least to have illuminated the steps so the appellant would have some prospect of seeing that they were wet and therefore potentially slippery.

[31] Section 9 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) provides:

9 General principles

(1) A person does not breach a duty to take precautions against a risk of harm unless—

(a) the risk was foreseeable (that is, it is a risk of which the person knew or ought reasonably to have known); and

(b) the risk was not insignificant; and

(c) in the circumstances, a reasonable person in the position of the person would have taken the precautions.

(2) In deciding whether a reasonable person would have taken precautions against a risk of harm, the court is to consider the following (among other relevant things)—

(a) the probability that the harm would occur if care were not taken;

(b) the likely seriousness of the harm;

(c) the burden of taking precautions to avoid the risk of harm;

(d) the social utility of the activity that creates the risk of harm.”

[32] Applying the law to the facts as found, one would conclude that the risk of a person slipping on the wet steps and being injured was foreseeable and not insignificant and so a reasonable person would have taken the precautions suggested by the trial judge given the probability of the harm of slipping, the seriousness of the harm that could result from slipping and how easy it would have been to obviate the risk of harm.

[33] The findings made by the learned trial judge were in accordance with the evidence. The law was correctly applied to the findings of fact.


David Cormack – Brisbane Barrister & Mediator

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