English Heritage Successfully Defends Claim Against Visitor Who Tripped on Mobility Ramp

In a recent court case, English Heritage defended itself against a claim brought by a visitor who tripped and injured herself on a mobility ramp at Brodsworth Hall, a Grade 1 listed property in South Yorkshire.

The claimant had visited Brodsworth Hall in May 2019 with her husband, who had mobility issues. After completing their visit, they decided to use the courtesy buggy to return to the site entrance. The buggy was dropped off and picked up from outside the tearoom. The entrance to the tearoom was 30 cm above ground level and a ramp with steps provided access. The ramp was approximately 4 metres in length and had a raised edge on both sides approximately 4 cm in height. The issue for the Court was that it did not have a handrail installed and the raised edge was not highlighted.

The claimant alleged that she tripped on the raised edge of the ramp, falling off and suffering a fractured shoulder.

The claimant argued that English Heritage had breached its duties under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 as it had failed to:

  • Install a handrail on the ramp
  • Highlight the top of the raised edge so it could be easily seen
  • Warn the claimant of the tripping hazard with warning signage or stickers or glow paint
  • Carry out a full risk assessment of the ramp

English Heritage argued that:

  • There were other people on the ramp at the time of the accident and the claimant was rushing to catch up with her husband
  • An eyewitness recalled that the claimant was in the process of trying to pass another visitor on the ramp but could not recall whether the claimant had stepped off it or tripped on the edge
  • The ramp had been installed for a long time prior to this claim (over 10 years) with no other reported accidents
  • The raised edge was there to be seen at the time of the accident and the ramp had been in two risk assessments done prior to the time of this claim
  • The risk assessments said that the ramp was a possible tripping hazard but all reasonable measures had been taken to ensure the reasonable safety of visitors


The Court found in favor of English Heritage and dismissed the claimant’s claim. The Court found that there had been no breach of duty on the part of English Heritage. The Court stated that there was no absolute duty on the part of English Heritage to keep all visitors completely safe at all times and to prevent all claims. The duty was to take reasonable steps to see that visitors were reasonably safe. On the evidence, the Court found that English Heritage had done so.

The Court was particularly mindful of the following factors:

  • There had been no reported incidents in the past 10 years despite the high footfall at the premises.
  • The Court was also not satisfied that signage or painting the edge would have prevented the accident happening.
  • The claimant was focused on getting to the buggy and was not mindful of what was going on around her at the time when she tripped on the edge.
  • In the circumstances, the claimant had failed to prove breach of duty or causation.

What can we learn from this case?

This case highlights the importance of taking reasonable steps to ensure the safety of visitors to your premises. However, it also shows that even if you have taken all reasonable steps, you may still be found liable for an accident if the claimant can prove that you have breached your duty of care.

Some key takeaways from this case include:

  • A lack of previous accidents in an area of high footfall is important and can affect your ability to defend a claim.
  • It must also be considered whether a claim would have been brought to your attention at the time, if it did occur.
  • Context is important when considering what are appropriate control measures. In this case, the claimant was in a listed building, which meant that the balance of risk and looks became more important. What would be appropriate on commercial premises would not necessarily be so on a building of architectural relevance.
  • Even if there has been a breach of duty, the claimant must still prove that the actual breach at the time caused the accident.
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