WHEAT V LACON & CO LTD [1966] 1 ALL ER 582 HL

FACT: Mr. Wheat, the husband of the appellant fell while going down the back stairs of a public house called “The Golfer’s Arms” at Great Yarmouth. He was found lying on the floor of the vestibule at the bottom of the stairs and shortly thereafter he died. Mrs. Wheat his widow commenced an action against E. Lacon & Co. Ltd., the respondent to this appeal, and the owners of the public house, Mr. Richardson and his wife, the manager of it. She claimed damages of her husband’s death by reason of the negligence and breach of duty of the defendants.

ARGUMENTS: Appellant: • The respondents were occupiers of the public house and so owed to Mr. Wheat as a visitor to the public house the duty prescribed by the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957. Respondents: • Suggested that at some stage of his descent Mr. Wheat had decided to turn back, perhaps realizing that the staircase did not lead to the bars, perhaps because the bottom of the staircase was in darkness and that in the course of turning to his right on the narrow treads, he had lost his balance and fallen. It was consistent with his injury.

JUDGEMENT (Viscount Dilhorne): • • The judge held that Mr. Wheat was not guilty of contributory negligence. The agreement was for the occupation of the whole of the public house by their servant, Mr. Richardson. It was not contended on their behalf that they had divested themselves of occupation and control of the ground floor of the premises.

Wheat was their “visitors” within the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957. (Lord Morris of Borth –Y-Gest) : • The staturoly regulated duty of the occupier to his visitors (unless the occupier is free to and does make variation by agreement or otherwise) is the common duty of care. The learned judge also thought that they had also sufficient control over the private portion. if he could not see the floor. Richardson was not given the privilege of residing in the public house as part of his emoluments. and Mrs. . (Lord Denning): • Did the respondents owe any duty to Mr. They had only granted him a licence to occupy it. • The respondents had a sufficient degree of control over the ground of floor and were “occupiers” of it. They were “an occupier” within the Act of 1957. He was obliged to live there for the purpose of his master’s business and for the performance of his service. each of whom is under a duty of care to visitors.• Mr. • Neither the respondents nor Mr. having a right themselves to do repairs. Wheat when he reached the end of the handrail would step out with the confidence that his foot was about to come upon the floor level. • There is no difficulty in having more than one occupier at one and the same time. Richardson could be blamed for the act of stranger. Wheat to see that the handrail was safe to use or to see that the stairs were properly lighted? That depends on whether the respondents were “an occupier” of the private portion of the Golfer’s Arms. Richardson by a demise. However the respondents could not do reasonably expected to have foreseen that Mr. They had not let it out to Mr. and Mr. for if so. the respondents owed him the “common duty of care”. • Dismiss the appeal. • The respondents were at the time occupiers of the material part of the premises.

So. • The respondents gave Mr. in period of 20 years before the day Mr. the respondents are not shown to have failed in their duty of care.• He must take such cares as in all circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there. appeal dismissed. Would dismiss the appeal. Wheat fell there had no been accident on the stairs. • • In this case. (Lord Pearce): • Whether the Richardsons would also be negligent in not warning their visitors or taking steps to reveal the danger would depend on whether a reasonable person in their position would have done so. (Lord Pearson): . Richardson freedom to receive personal guests and also to receive guests for reward. Wheat and his party a duty of care. • Accordingly. the question whether a defendant failed in that duty becomes a question of fact in all the circumstances. • Nonetheless. Wheat and his party. It follows that the respondents and the Richardsons were “occupiers” vis-à-vis Mr. Both the respondents and the Richardsons owed Mr. • Once the duty of care is imposed. there was not a failure to take reasonable care of the part of respondents.

• There was no proof of negligence on the part of the respondents. would dismiss the appeal. • The absence of the bulb was not shown to be due to any negligence on the part of Mr. Appeal dismissed. The appellant cannot succeed on the issue of negligence. So. However. or Mrs. in the case of Mr. same with me who are totally agree with the judgment because as one of the judge said that about 20 years before. it is obviously showed that all the judges dismiss the appeal. Wheat he died after falling down from the stairs. Richardson. .• The handrail was helpful and not dangerous because it was not probable or reasonably foreseeable that it would cause any accident. COMMENTARY: According to the trial judges in this case. whether acting on his or her own behalf or as servant or agent or the respondents. I opine that he was accidentally fell and because of his own negligence and not because of the respondents who were not took any duty of care. there was no accident related to the stairs. Therefore. The absence of the electric light bulb from the fitting at the tope of the staircase was unaccounted for.

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