Slip and fall accidents are considered to be one of the most common type of accidents. They can happen at any kind of premises such as supermarket stores, hotels and guest houses or even at the workplace.
Common law has always recognised the liability on the part of the occupier of the premises against all lawful users of the premises, as an expression of the duty of care owed to a person’s neighbour. As mentioned in a previous article here, liability will be assessed on the basis of negligence as contextualised in Article 51 of the Civil Wrongs Cap. 148 (the ‘Law’). Occupier’s liability is specifically governed by Article 51(2)b of the Law which encapsulates the principles as mentioned below.
The occupier will be the person who has some degree of control over the premises. To be the occupier a person does not need to have either entire control of the premises nor have exclusive occupation. Thus, a person will be deemed to be the occupier on the basis of an assessment of the degree of control the person exerts on the premises. This assessment is often relevant in tenancies whereby the owner and the tenant may both be found to have some control over the premises. In this situation an apportionment of liability between the two may be the appropriate solution.
Lawful visitors are categorised into two categories. These are invitees and bare licensees.
1) Invitees are the people who are invited to the premises and are there lawfully with the express or implied consent of the occupier for their common interest either that being financial or material.
2) Bare licensees enter the occupier’s premises lawfully, however, not for any kind of common interest.
Duty of care
The Law recognises two different expressions of the duty of care that will be owed to lawful visitors.
1) an occupier owes a duty to take care as regards the activities that take place at the premises in relation to current operations (activity duty). This duty is owed to all lawful visitors, invitees and bare licensees alike and it is the occupier’s obligation to take reasonable steps to safeguard the premises from danger that he ought to know or it should be considered that the occupier, as a reasonable person, should have known. This duty may entail the following actions:
2) an occupier owes a duty to take care as regards the static situation of the premises i.e. the state, maintenance and repair of the premises (occupancy duty). This duty is owed to invitees at its primary form but to bare licensees in a more restricted way. The occupier owes a duty to only notify the bare licensee about any hidden or unusual danger in the premises that he ought to know or it should be considered that the occupier should have known. This duty may entail the following actions:
Thus, we can see that the Law distinguishes the duty an occupier has, to take care in relation to the status of the person being at its premises and the situation observed.
It is often believed that when the occupier has agreed with an independent contractor to perform a specific task in the premises, the contractor will be solely liable for any damage that may occur. However, there is no clear line drawn for this topic. In the seminal case of Xenophontos v. Κ.Ν Zoo Bar Restaurant Civ. Appeal 477/11 dated 15/12/16 the Court decided on majority that the occupier could not avoid liability on the basis of the employment of the independent contractors as regards the repair of the elevator. However, we note that each case should and will be assessed on its own particular set of facts.
A trespasser is the person who enters premisses unlawfully i.e. without the consent of the occupier. No duty is recognised under the Law owed to a trespasser and it was evident for a long time that common law would hardly ever recognize any kind of duty to a trespasser. However, Cypriot law has since harmonised the notion of the occupier’s duty of care with the need to act with humanity towards fellow citizens. This duty will be owed provided that the premises feature hidden or unusual dangers that the occupier ought to know or it should be considered that the occupier should have known, which bear the danger of damaging the trespasser provided that the entry of the trespasser is to be reasonably expected.
At last, it is important to remember that people fall down for different reasons and under different circumstances. Nevertheless, often there exists no specific reason for the fall, other than a simple stumble.
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The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact Mr Agis Charalambous, Associate at the litigation department of our firm in Nicosia at telephone +357 22447777 or email email@example.com
 GIP Constuctions v. Neophytou and other, (1983) 1 CLR 669.