Technical claims brief, monthly update – July 20101
News£400,000 Fine for retailerbreaching fire regulations
Clothing retailers New Look wereprosecuted for multiple offences underthe
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
following a serious fire in 2009 at theirOxford Street premises. The building had tobe cleared and there was disruption to thesurrounding area but fortunately no one wasinjured. The defendants had failed to deal with anumber of deficiencies identified in thestore’s pre-Order fire Certificate issued in2000, there was no suitable assessment of the fire risks and they had failed to ensurethat employees had adequate safetytraining. The judge at first instance having consideredthe seriousness of the breaches and thelarge turnover of the defendants found thata fine of £600,000 would be appropriatediscounted to £400,000 to reflect the earlyadmission of guilt. The defendants appealed arguing that the judge had failed to give sufficient weight tothe fact that the breaches of the regulationshad not caused the fire and had not led toany death or injury. The Court of Appealhowever had little sympathy for thesearguments. The fine was a reflection of thevery serious risk to members of the publicand employees of the store caused by thebreaches and the defendants should notbenefit from a purely fortuitous absence of casualties.
“...the court does not have to wait until death or serious injury hasoccurred to express its displeasure at wholesale breaches of thedefendant’s responsibilities.....”
Lord Justice Pitchford
Comment: The courts have in recent times shown an increasing willingness to impose severe fines for breaches of health and safety regulation. The Court of Appeal has made it plain that a defendant cannot escape simply because no injuries or damage have actually resulted from their breaches.
Irish insurer faces high cost ofrural hazard
The Irish Independent has reported aone million Euro out of court settlementpaid by Irish Insurer FBD to an unnamedmotorcyclist who suffered permanentdisability when his motorcycle skidded oncow dung left on the road. The dung hadoriginated from FBD’s policyholder’s cattleand had allegedly caused or contributed tothe accident.FBD has urged farmers to make andmaintain clear contractual arrangementswith contractors as to who is responsible forclearing the highway of farm waste, mud orother hazards and to bear in mind their legalresponsibilities not to endanger users of thehighway.
Comment: This case highlights the danger to motorists of material left on the highway and the potential cost to those responsiblefor depositing it. This applies equally well inUK jurisdictions and to building contractors and others who may leave a road surface in an unsafe condition.