A tradesman, Mr Morecombe was working in Mr Biddick's house to install insulation in the loft. Mr Biddick said that he would secure the loft door with a pole to stop the loft door from opening. Mr Biddick's phone rang and he walked away from holding the pole to answer it when Mr Morecombe fell through the loft hatch.
Mr Morecombe brought a claim against Mr Biddick. The first court held that Mr Biddick owed Mr Morecombe a duty of care- he had assumed responsibility for Mr Morecombe by offering to ensure that the hatch remained closed but he breached his duty by leaving his post. However, the court acknowledged that Mr Morecombe was an experienced tradesman, capable of carrying out a risk assessment and that his failure to act without due regard for the potential danger was a contributing factor in the accident.
The Judge said that Mr Biddick was one third responsible as the absence of the pole was only part of the reason for the door opening. Mr Morecombe was also responsible for his weight on the hatch, overreaching and the hatch not being properly secure.
The parties appealed but the decision in the First Court was maintained.
Mr Biddick was an elderly man at the time of the incident and did not live to see the Trial. In his evidence he did express considerable regret in deciding to leave his post. Perhaps his biggest regret should have been helping in the first place. Both Courts concluded that had he not involved himself there would have been no basis on which to find him liable. Let this be a warning to those of you letting tradesmen into your homes - leave them to get on with the job!