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DOMESTIC CLIENT RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONTRACTOR SAFETY

Worker injury claim against homeowner highlights CDM domestic client debate   

The Daily Mail has reported on a High Court case in which an injured builder is pursuing a claim for damages against the domestic client on whose property he was injured.

The claimant alleges that he was standing on a ladder belonging to the client whilst holding a roll of roofing material which he intended to pass up to a colleague on the roof of the garage. The ladder toppled over and he fell to the ground.

Following a High Court hearing in March 2010 the written judgement by The Hon Mrs Justice Swift DBE found in favour of the homeowner. However, Tomasz Kmeicic (aged 31) has now been granted permission for the matter to heard by the Court of Appeal.

Householders will greet case with ‘horror’

Robin Allen QC, for Mr Kmiecic, said the case would:

“provide an excellent opportunity to give a definitive ruling on the extent of householders’ duties towards workmen”.

At the earlier High Court hearing, Mrs Justice Swift suggested that the real culprit was the uninsured building contractor who had engaged Mr Kmeicic.

In granting the appeal she added that the issue raised points of European law never before considered by the courts and noted that the case would be ‘greeted with some degree of horror’ by many householders.

Comment

This case is a reminder of similar possible developments in relation to the statute law, namely the CDM Regulations 2007.

The Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites Directive was implemented in the UK through the CDM Regulations 2007. However, the UK approach to implementation of the Directive exempted domestic clients from CDM client duties whilst no such exemption exists in the Directive. 

Policymakers in the UK felt it would not be “practical, proportionate, politically acceptable or enforceable to place duties on true domestic clients”.

The approach adopted by the UK and others is still being reviewed by the EU. Domestic construction clients could still in the future find themselves facing responsibility for contractor safety on both civil and statutory fronts!

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