In Manual Handling claims, causation is still key................ - DAC Beachcroft

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In Manual Handling claims, causation is still key................

Published On: 25 March 2015

The question of whether a claim should succeed in the event of a technical breach of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 was considered by the Court of Appeal in the recent case of West Sussex County Council v Kim Fuller.  The Claimant suffered injuries when she fell as she carried post up a flight of stairs.  The local authority failed to perform a risk assessment of the task of delivering post within its office building, leading to the judge at first instance finding for the Claimant.  This was despite him not believing her account as to the amount of post being carried or her fall being caused by a sticky substance on the stairs, him concluding that she had misjudged her footing and his reluctance to give judgment in her favour.

Lord Justice Tomlinson, considering a number of recent judgments on manual handling risk assessments, did not dispute the finding of breach of duty as the local authority had failed to assess the risks inherent in the Claimant's work.

Insofar as the question of causation was concerned, he concluded that the accident was not caused by the absence of a risk assessment; instead, it was caused by the Claimant misjudging her footing as she climbed a staircase while she happened to be carrying items of post.  As he put it, 'The circumstance that the Claimant was carrying post may perhaps be described as the occasion for her injury, but it was not a cause of it'.  The local authority's appeal was allowed and the claim was dismissed.

Whilst the courts' approach towards technical breaches following the implementation of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act develops, this judgment serves as a reminder to Defendants and their insurers that the question of causation remains a key component in any claim for injuries.