Staples v West Dorset District Council [1995] 93 LGR 536

Tort law – Negligence – Duty of care


The defendant occupied the Cobb at Lyme Regis which was a wall from which the public could gain access to the promenade. It sloped into the sea and at the time of the case, had algae growing on this. The plaintiff slipped on the algae, fell and suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident. The plaintiff claimed to sue the defendant on the basis that there should have been an applicable signing, warning of the danger. There had been no accidents in its long history but the defendant presented a sign following the claimant’s fall. At the initial trial, the judge found in the plaintiff’s favour to which the defendant appealed.


During the trial, the plaintiff stated that he had noticed the algae was slimy and wet and could foresee that this could be slippery. On this basis, it was important for the court to establish whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care in the circumstances under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.


The court allowed the appeal of the defendant on the basis that a warning on a sign would not have informed the plaintiff of new information. The duty that was owed to the plaintiff by the defendant under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 was a duty to warn a visitor to the nature and extent of a risk if he was unaware. In this case, the plaintiff acknowledged that he was aware of the risk and stood on the algae nonetheless.