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It's Murder on the Dance Floor


Leisure venues have long wrestled with the issue of defending allegations of negligence for slips when drink is spilt on dance floors.  A recent court case has delivered a positive result and laid down some much needed case law guidance for defending these claims.

Written on 29th November 2018

Leisure venues have long wrestled with the issue of defending allegations of negligence for slips when drink is spilt on dance floors.  A recent court case has delivered a positive result and laid down some much needed case law guidance for defending these claims.

In Robinson v Bourne Leisure, legal firm Keoghs has successfully defended Butlins where the claimant alleged that she slipped on a spilt drink on the dance floor, sustaining a fractured left foot.  

Signage was displayed throughout the venue advising customers to keep drinks away from the dance floor and this was supplemented by regular DJ announcements, a good system of inspection and cleaning, and fully briefed employee members.

The claimant and her witness alleged at trial, they had not seen any of the prevention systems in operation on the day of her accident. The claimant’s counsel also submitted that the systems were inadequate and that the defendant should have taken steps to prevent any customer from taking drinks onto the dance floor.

When asked by the judge for suggestions as to measures that should have been taken, the claimant’s counsel accepted that it was a drinking venue and he was not suggesting that Butlins should have banned all drinks, neither should the entrance to the dance floor have been controlled by a barrier where checks would be carried out. He did however, suggest the defendant could have stationed sufficient employees to intercept and prevent any customer who attempted to take a drink on the dance floor. This was dismissed by the judge as a wholly unrealistic suggestion.

The Judge also ruled that in any public venue where drinks are being served and carried by members of the public there is an inevitable risk of spillage. He also found that there was no evidence in this case as to when the spillage actually occurred. He went on to suggest that the spillage could have appeared only moments before the claimant slipped and Butlins employees would not have had the opportunity to clean it before the accident happened.

The judge made three key conclusions when summing up the case:

  1. The common duty in issue did not require the defendant to completely prevent all customers from bringing drinks onto the dance floor, in breach of their policy.
  2. The system in place to reduce the risk of customers doing so along with detecting and clearing up spillages if they occurred, was operational and its measures reasonable, satisfying the common duty. 
  3. Even if he was wrong on the first two points, the judge stated that there was no evidence to conclude that a different policy would have prevented the accident or made it more unlikely.

The  claim was dismissed. Given there is no UK case law in which the defendant has been successful in defending a slipping accident on a dance floor, the leisure industry and their insurers, will view this as an important precedent and hope that this matter will provide guidance in future cases.

Source:  https://keoghs.co.uk/keoghs-insight/client-alerts/keoghs-sets-precedent-with-dance-floor-slip-defence?page=1

 

 

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