Home owners liable as blind guest falls through open window
A couple have been told they’re liable to pay compensation to a blind guest who fell through a window at their home and suffered brain and spinal injuries.
The guest was visiting the couple and was given a bedroom on the second floor. During the night, he got up to go to the bathroom but got disorientated and fell through the window, which had been left wide open. He suffered catastrophic injuries and was left paralysed from the waist down. He took legal action against the couple, claiming they had breached their duty of care.
The home owners argued that there were three possible explanations of how their guest fell from the window: it was a complete accident; he had overbalanced after deliberately leaning out; or he had been sleep-walking and climbed out.
The last two of those explanations did not involve any breach of duty on their part. They also argued that a fall through the window, while possible, had not been a real risk that would influence the mind of a reasonable man, and so they had taken such care as was reasonable in the circumstances to see that the guest would be safe.
The court ruled in favour of the guest. It held that on a balance of probabilities, he had fallen through the open window as he was trying to make his way to the bathroom, having lost his sense of direction.
The common duty of care owed by the couple under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 required them to consider any known vulnerability of their visitor.
An open window created an obvious risk for a blind person, particularly when it was on the second storey of the house with nothing to prevent a fall to the ground below. The couple had failed to discharge the common duty of care they owed as occupiers.
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