TORT 2.3A OCCUPIER’S LIABILITY
Lord Denning’s Dictum and Judgment in Wheat V E Lacon and Co are extremely useful for this topic. In Wheat v. Lacon, the claimant and her husband went on vacation and lodged in a house. The husband fell and broke his neck while coming down the stairs. The claimant brought an action against the owners and managers of the public house alleging that they failed to keep the stairs well lit. Lord Denning postulated the following very important principles (which should also be noted in the exams). They include:
One: An occupier is a person who has occupation, or some degree of control over a premises-See also Harris V Birkenhead; He does not need to be the owner of the property See also Bailey V Armes.
NB: PLEASE DON’T USE “SEE ALSO” IN THE EXAMS you can say something like; “as was held in…” or “as can be seen in the case of…”
Two: An occupier should take reasonable steps to prevent harm or injury to his visitor.
Three: There may be more than one occupier of a premises but the rule is that; -Where a premises is occupied by several tenants, each tenant is generally the occupier of the portion they occupy (e.g. their flat/room area). -All managers and tenants are joint occupiers of the common portion of the property. –Then the owner of the land is responsible for any portion of the property not being occupied/leased out by him.
Having noted these, we move on to a fuller discussion of Occupier’s liability. Just note the following:
:: Where there is no statute on occupier’s liability, the common-law rule especially that espoused in British Railway Board V Herrington applies.
:: If there is a statute, the statute applies. Lagos state has enacted her Occupier’s Liability Law. Law Reform (Tort Law) of Lagos State.