Injuries in Common Areas – who is responsible?

United Kingdom

If a customer trips over in a shopping centre mall, who is potentially liable? The answer is both the landlord and any tenant who has contributed to the accident.

Suppose a customer slips as a result of water and petals on a floor outside a florist. The florist owes a duty of care to the customer and will need to take reasonable and effective steps to avoid the risk. The florist must have suitable systems in place for dealing with spillages outside the shop. Otherwise they could be potentially liable.

The landlord is also generally responsible for common areas and will also owe a duty of care to the customer. What does the landlord have to do to satisfy its duty? It would be normal for the lease to the florist to contain obligations on the part of the florist about making good damage or not causing injury to third parties. In order to discharge its legal duty a landlord must not only make sure that the appropriate obligations are imposed in the tenancy but also take sufficient steps to actually supervise and monitor the tenant to make sure that the tenant effectively cleans up. A landlord who imposes the obligations and then turns a blind eye to what the tenant actually does could also be potentially liable.

Case reference – Piccolo -v- Larkstock Limited (trading as Chiltern Flowers) and others [2007] All ER (D) 251 (Jul)