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Legal Issues Involving Accidents and Injuries at Melbridge Bowling Center, Southern Dentistry Surger

Situation 1: Occupier's Liability at Melbridge Bowling Center

1. Melbridge Bowling Centre (MBC) has a 12-lane bowling complex, a restaurant area, and toilets near the entrance. The following events took place recently:

The sign in the bowling area stated, ‘no entry for children under 10, unless accompanied by an adult’.  Ruthy, a 9-year-old girl, suffered from an injury when she entered the bowling area unaccompanied and put her hand inside the bowling ball delivery machine. Her gold bracelet was also damaged.

Maprang, a ceiling repair expert, was called to MBC after concerns were expressed about a crack that had appeared in the reception’s ceiling. Maprang started chipping away at the ceiling without setting up any safety barriers or warning signs. Steven, a regular bowler at the MBC, was walking through reception when one of the ceiling chips flew into his left eye, rendering him blind in that eye. Unfortunately, Steven was already partially sighted in his other eye.

Sunesh had been dining in the restaurant. Thomas, one of the restaurant staff, took a dislike to Sunesh. When Sunesh left the restaurant, Thomas followed him into the MBC reception area. Thomas pushed Sunesh against the wall, subjecting him to a racially aggravated, unprovoked attack. Thomas made verbal threats to Sunesh, finishing off by saying that Sunesh was to ‘never come back to the bowling centre’.

a) Under Occupier’s Liability, can Ruthy claim successfully for her injured hand and/or her bracelet? Justify your answer.

b) Under Occupier’s Liability, can Steven claim successfully for his injuries? Justify your answer.

c) Under the principles of vicarious liability, when pursuing a claim for the assault, would Sunesh claim against Thomas or MBC? Justify your answer.

2. In November 2020, Emma, an experienced dentist employed at Southern Dentistry Surgery, was treating Tim, one of her regular patients. As part of his treatment, Tim needed an injection. Emma had mentioned this briefly at the start of the appointment but had not given Tim the details. As such, Tim assumed that Emma would go through the full details with him later in the appointment. Tim was in the dental chair when Emma suddenly administered the injection, without his express consent being given. Unfortunately, Tim had a bad reaction to the injection and ended up with moderate nerve damage on the right side of his face. The risk of moderate nerve damage was around 10-11% and Tim claims that, had he been told of the risk, he would have elected not to proceed.

Situation 2: Informed Consent and Workplace Safety at Southern Dentistry Surgery

In June 2021, Tim was on a boat-trip run by Relaxing Tours Limited. He was on the deck of the boat when the lifeboat became uncoupled, swung down and struck him on the head. The staff from Relaxing Tours Limited had failed to secure the boat properly. The impact of the boat caused Tim to suffer from complete facial paralysis on the right side of his face (a much more severe affliction than his previous moderate nerve damage).  As a result of the impact, he was unable to move the muscles in the right side of his face at all.

The boat quickly brought Tim back to the harbour. He was put on a stretcher, taken off the boat and into a waiting ambulance. Tim’s elderly neighbour, Jan, was out walking her dog at the harbour.  She saw Tim being carried off the boat and into the ambulance. He was unconscious and covered in blood.  She and Tim had been neighbours for a couple of years and would make friendly chit-chat in passing. Jan was traumatised by Tim’s injury and now suffers from severe anxiety.

a) Based on the facts of the first paragraph alone, can Tim bring a successful claim against Southern Dentistry Surgery for his nerve damage? Justify your answer.

b) Following the subsequent accident in June 2021, can Tim still bring a successful claim against Southern Dentistry Surgery for the nerve damage? Justify your answer.

c) Could Jan bring a successful psychiatric harm claim against Relaxing Trips Ltd for her trauma and anxiety? Justify your answer. 

3. The Hot Iron Works Safety Regulations 2002 (a fictional statute) states that;

“For the protection of employees operating hot iron works machinery”

“It shall be the duty of those owning and operating any hot iron works machinery to ensure that such machinery is securely fenced.”

“Breach of this regulation shall result in a fine not exceeding £5,000”.

Ben worked for Steel Works Ltd as a supervisor and it was his job to oversee the operation of the machinery. A few months ago, at the start of October, the staff on Machine A removed the fence around Machine A as it meant they could work at a faster pace, getting a larger Christmas bonus. Ben knew that the staff on Machine A had removed the fence surrounding it, but did nothing about it. One afternoon, Fred was cleaning in the factory. A piece of hot iron flew out of the unfenced machine A and hit Fred in the face, injuring him.

At the end of the working day, Harriet, the factory manager, was determined that none of the staff should leave the factory until they had replaced the fence around Machine A.  When the factory was closed, and when no one was looking, Harriet locked the doors.  She unlocked them an hour later when the fence has been put back up.  None of the factory staff realised that the doors had been locked during that period.

The next week, Ben was walking through the warehouse when a metal crate suddenly fell from the roof’s storage rafters onto him, causing a serious injury to his spine.

Fred, the factory staff, and Ben now seek your advice on their potential claims. In particular:

a) Will Fred be able to bring a successful action either under the Regulations, and/or at common law? Justify your answer.

b) Can the factory staff bring a claim for being locked in the factory? Justify your answer. 

c) Ben is seeking to claim for his injury. To what extent is the burden of proof on him?

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