County Council wins High Court appeal over carbon monoxide poisoning

PUBLISHED: 09:19 17 January 2020

Essex County Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Essex County Council. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

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Essex County Council is not to blame for the carbon monoxide poisoning of nine college workers who were awarded more than £100,000 between them, an appeal has ruled.

The injuries suffered by nine women, who worked in Havering College of Further and Higher Education's hair and beauty department in 2012, included dizziness, vomiting and hair loss.

The department used a building at the now-closed Sawyers Hall College in Brentwood, which is now Becket Keys High School.

Essex County Council (ECC) and the governing body of Sawyers Hall College stood alongside Havering College when it was accused of being liable for damages.

But ECC has now been told it is not responsible for the injuries as it was not an occupier of the building.

On November 20, 2012, the flue to the boiler in the building suffered a catastrophic blockage, resulting in the escape of very high levels of carbon monoxide.

In 2018 the judge at Central London County Court found all three appellants - Havering College, ECC and Sawyers Hall College - in breach of their duty under the 1957 Occupied Liability Act, and the college was additionally found in breach of the duties it owed to the claimants as employer.

The claimants were awarded sums ranging from £7,000 to £15,000, generally in accordance with the length of exposure (£15,000 representing exposure over a period of a little over two years).

No students were affected by the gas as they were not subjected to it for long enough for it to have an affect.

At appeal at the High Court, the county council and the school governing body successfully pleaded that they were simply landlords (at different times) of the premises and were not "occupiers" owing the material duties under the 1957 Act.

Mr Justice Saini said it was his judgement that a landlord does not owe a duty of care to its tenants or visitors of its tenants.

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