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Dawkins v Carnival PLC [2011] EWCA Civ 1237

The Claimant (“C”) sustained soft tissue injuries to her knees and hands when she slipped on water in the cafeteria Conservatory area of the Defendant’s (“D”) cruise ship.

At trial the Recorder found that the possibility of spillages and someone slipping in the cafeteria were obviously foreseeable, and imposed upon D a clear duty to operate a reasonably effective system for getting rid of spilt liquid and minimising the danger it might cause. Applying the guidance of Ward v Tesco, the Recorder considered the D’s inspection system and found that spillages would be picked up almost instantaneously by the full contingent of staff; however, no evidence was given by any member of staff present in the Conservatory on the day of the accident. The Court of Appeal described this as a “significant omission” given the number of staff in the area and their provision of assistance to C after the accident.The Recorder, however, found that the weight of the evidence showed that the D did all that was required of them in establishing a proper system to ensure the safety of their passengers and dismissed the claim. C appealed.

The CA accepted that if the probability is of the spillage being contemporaneous with the accident, that remedial action could not reasonably be taken during the gap between them, the claim would fail; but, “The absence of evidence from one or more of the many members of staff claimed to be present in the Conservatory at the material time is remarkable. ... in the absence of evidence from members of staff claimed to be implementing the system, the judge was not entitled to infer from the existence of a system that the spillage which led to the fall occurred only a few seconds, or a very short time, before the accident.” The claim succeeded on the evidence.

/ 1st Nov 2011


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