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24 February 2014 | Comment | Article by Stephanie Eedy

Do occupiers of land have a duty of care to contractors?

Stephanie discusses the case of Jamie Yates v National Trust which looks at the duties of care owed by an occupier to his contractor’s employees.

The last month has seen some interesting cases reported and one which particularly caught my eye is the case of Jamie Yates v National Trust. This case highlights the duties of care owed by an occupier to his contractor’s employees (in this case to those working at height).

In this case the claimant was engaged as part of a team to fell a diseased horse chestnut tree in the gardens of a National Trust premises. Whilst 50 feet above ground level he fell and suffered severe injuries to his spine which rendered him paraplegic. He claimed against National Trust for negligence and for breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The National Trust (NT)had engaged a tree surgeon, Joe Jackman, to undertake the felling of the tree. The claimant was a member of his team on this occasion and had worked for Jackman on a casual basis. Jackman did not hold a relevant certificate for the specific felling and NT was aware of this but had engaged him on various contracts in the past. Jackman had public liability insurance but it was unclear whether this covered those working for him.

The claimant alleged that NT owed him a duty of care and had not taken reasonable care to ensure work methods were safe and competent and that NT was negligent in its choice of contractor.

Although NT owed him a duty of care as lawful visitor to its premises under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 that was irrelevant as the state of the premises was not unsafe – it was his activity as a tree surgeon that caused his injury. Although the Work at Height Regulations 2005 imposed a duty, even on a non-employer to ensure that those working at height were safe, it was dependent on exercising control over the work. NT did not have such control as the claimant worked under the instruction of Jackman.

Whilst tree surgery is hazardous and a failure to exercise reasonable care in its choice of independent contractor may make NT liable to the ordinary visitor it was too onerous to extend this to the contractor’s employees or sub contractors. The case concluded that there was no obligation on NT either to ensure that the claimant was covered by Jackman’s insurance.

The injuries no doubt drastically changed the claimant’s life and he suffered significant losses but there was no liability on National Trust (and therefore its insurers) to compensate him.

Author bio

Stephanie Eedy


Stephanie Eedy specialises in group actions on behalf of communities and residents across England and Wales affected by various forms of environmental pollution such as odour, noise and dust emanating from factories, landfill sites and other similar commercial entities.  She has successfully concluded a number of environmental group actions in locations within the UK and has secured compensation and an end to the nuisance on behalf of a large number of individuals.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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