A venue´s failure to install an identifiable handrail has been ruled sufficient cause to determine liability in a claim for a fall down stairs at a nightclub.
In June 2011, a Manchester businessman was leaving the Pulse Nightclub on the city´s Dantzic Street, when he fell head-first down a flight of stairs from the converted 19th Century warehouse onto the street below. The man – who cannot be named for legal reasons – fractured his skull and suffered serious brain damage.
Due to the extent of his injuries, the man will never be able to lead an independent life and requires around-the-clock care. On his behalf, lawyers made a compensation claim for a fall down stairs at a nightclub against Pro-Nation Ltd, the owners of the Pulse Nightclub.
Pro-Nation denied liability for their customer´s accident, claiming that the man had drunk “six or seven pints” while at the club and that the fall down the stairs was due to his drink-fuelled incapacity. Due to the serious consequences of the accident, a hearing was scheduled to determine liability at London´s High Court.
At the hearing, Judge Richard Pearce was told by friends of the businessman that he was “not visibly affected by his drinking” and appeared “essentially normal”. The judge also heard that the presence of a curtain at the top of the stairs masked a small handrail that the businessman could have used to address his fall.
Ruling that the venue was not fitted with a “visible and identifiable handrail” as recommended by building regulations, Judge Pearce found in favour of the claimant. He said that Pro-Nation had failed in its duty of care to keep customers safe and rejected the argument that the businessman had contributed to the fall down stairs at the nightclub “through his own blameworthy conduct”.
The claim for a fall down stairs at a nightclub will return to the High Court later in the year once an assessment has been conducted to assess the man´s future care needs. The settlement of the claim will need to be approved by a judge to ensure it is in the claimant´s best interests as he is unable to represent himself due to his injuries.