Court case could serve as warning against injury claims

There has always been more legal action related to SA’s fastest growing property sector, sectional title, than to other property and a recent court ruling (in the Swinburne vs. Newbee Investments case) has highlighted yet another area in which legal action could now proliferate, says Grant Gunston, senior partner at Grant Gunston Attorneys.

“In this case,” he said, “a tenant successfully sued the landlord of a block of flats because he had broken a leg on the flight of stairs and put this down to the fact that no handrail had been installed here.”

The lease, said Gunston, had contained an “exclusion of liability” clause but this was proven inadequate because, although it made specific reference to damage to physical property, it did not include any reference to people, whether members or visitors, being injured in the building.

Gunston expressed the opinion that, as a result of this case, landlords should include a properly worded, totally comprehensive clause in the lease to the effect that they cannot be liable for any accidents on the premises, and Body Corporates would do well to post warning signs to this effect as well.

Further prudent measures would include contracting a health and safety inspector to assess possible hazards in the building, and the body corporate insurance should be worded so as to take account of any claim for an accident or injury to a person.

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