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Wheat v Lacon

[1966] AC 552

Case summary last updated at 18/01/2020 15:05 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Wheat v Lacon

D was a company with a pub and the owners, L, lived above the pub. L let a room to P. The handrail finished before the end of the stairs and P fell down and died. P’s estate brought a claim against the company (NB the company, not L).  HL held that the company was an occupier and owed a common duty of care to P, but had not breached the duty. 
Lord Denning: “occupier” in the 1957 Act means a person who has a sufficient degree of control so as to owe a common duty of care towards those who lawfully enter the premises. This instance is simply a particular example of the duty of care that a man owes to his neighbour. “Where a person has a sufficient degree of control over the premises that he ought to realise that any failure on his part to use care may result in injury to a person coming there”, then he is the occupier, his guest is a visitor and O owes V a duty to use reasonable care. Here, the company had merely licensed L to use the premises but had not let it to L so that it retained a sufficient measure of control. However there was nothing to suggest that the short handrail was dangerous e.g. no previous accidents. It is possible to have more than one occupiers, as here. 

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