Barking up the wrong tree
From the Solicitors Journal 02/08/11:
Families ‘unlikely to appeal’ after National Trust ruling.
Edward Powell, head of personal injury at Essex firm Ellisons, has said it is “unlikely there will be an appeal” after the High Court ruled that the National Trust was not negligent after a boy died from a falling branch on one of its estates.
Daniel Mullinger was on a primary school trip when the class sheltered under an old beech tree in heavy rain at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. A heavy branch collapsed onto the group, killing Daniel and seriously injuring three other children.
The accident occurred in the Great Wood, home to almost 250,000 mature trees and a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of them.
Delivering judgment in Bowen and others v The National Trust  EWHC 1992 (QB), Mr Justice Mackay said the group was sheltering briefly under a large beech tree, probably between 160 and 180 years old, when “entirely without warning” a large branch fractured and fell on them.
Mackay J said the Trust owed the children a duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and under the general law of tort.
He said there was no obligation to ensure the safety of visitors, merely to “take reasonable care to provide reasonable safety”.
Mackay J went on: “It is easy to state the law in this area, but less easy to apply it, particularly in a case with such a tragic outcome as this.
“The thrust of the case against the defendant is that its tree inspectors, for whom it is vicariously liable, failed to exercise reasonable care in their task.”
As truly tragic as this case is, common sense has prevailed. Sheer bad luck rather than any wrongdoing seems to have been the driving force behind this terrible outcome.
On a related note, I’ve got a rather large tree outside my house which I’m sure will soon be shedding God know how many tens of thousands of leaves all around. Maybe I should treat myself to a leaf blower before they turn into a soggy, slippery mulch and one of my charming neighbours decides to sue me … (they seem the litigious sort).