Australia: hotel occupier liable for fall at raised timber platform in the lobby

Shortly before midday on 19 June 2009 the plaintiff tripped over the corner of a raised timber platform in the lobby area of the Manly Pacific Hotel. As a result he suffered injuries to his neck, right shoulder and back. That relatively dark timber platform was a permanent structure in the hotel lobby and was positioned to the right side of the walkway to the main bar area, the entrance to which was on the left hand side of the foyer area. It was rectangular in shape – 1770 mm wide, 2625 mm long and 151 mm in height. The bottom edge of the platform was raised 55 mm above the floor, so that the top edge was about 20 cm above the floor. A strip of illuminated LED lights under that bottom edge cast light onto the white marble floor tiles of the lobby.The first instance court (District Court of New South Wales) found that the plaintiff did not see the raised timber platform before he tripped and fell and that his ability to do so was affected by “intense glare” from a window. It held that the risk of tripping on the raised platform was foreseeable and not insignificant, that the hotel occupier had breached its duty as occupier by failing to warn of the risk, and that the risk was not an “obvious” one such that the hotel occupier did not owe a duty to warn of it. The hotel occupier therefore was liable for the damages.The hotel occupier’s appeal was dismissed by majority decision of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.Case: Ratewave Pty Limited v BJ Illingby[2017] NSWCA 103

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