Adams v Rhymney Valley DC  Lloyd’s Rep PN 777
TORT – NEGLIGENCE – STANDARD OF CARE – PROFESSIONAL LANDLORDS
The defendant was a local authority and a professional landlord who replaced a set of double-glazed windows in their tenant’s accommodation with locks with removeable keys. The defendant had designed the windows themselves. As a result of these locks, the tenant’s children were unable to escape through the windows during a house fire, and died. The tenant sued the defendant in the tort of negligence.
Establishing negligence involves showing that the defendant breached their duty of care to the claimant. To establish breach, the claimant must establish that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position. This is known as the standard of care. This standard is higher in the case of professionals: they must act as a reasonable professional would.
The issue was the standard of care which was required of a professional landlord.
The Court of Appeal held that the defendant was not liable.
The Court held that the defendant had exercised reasonable skill and care, and produced a design which other professionals had also produced and used. They were not negligent simply because they had not consulted the entirety of the profession and assessed the range of contrary views before determining the design.
This principle followed from the principles in the Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee and Bolitho v City & Hackney Health Authority cases, which held that a professional will not be in breach of their duty of care if they acted in a manner which was in accordance with practices accepted as proper by a responsible body of other professionals with expertise in that particular area, unless that practice was indefensible or illogical.