aris v Stepney Borough Council
Paris – claimant
Stepney Borough council- opposing party
The case was heard in three courts, the first being the high court, where Paris won against Stepney Borough Council, however, this was short-lived as the decision was then overturned in the court of appeal. However, the final court House of Lords once again was in favour of Paris and therefore he won against Stepney Borough council.
Paris was employed by Stepney Borough Council, he was given the role of a garage mechanic. Mr Paris had already suffered a loss of sight in one eye from a war injury. One day, when working he needed to lose a still bolt and so hit it with a hammer, in result of that a piece of metal flew off and hit Mr Paris’s ‘good’ sighted eye, this was due to him not wearing goggles and as a result, was permanently blinded in both eyes.
There was a breach of duty in Paris v Stepney as the employer of the claimant owed a duty of care which Is highlighting the tort of negligence, in order to establish this breach of duty, the claimant must show how the defendant failed to give their duty of care as they should in their position of authority. In Paris v Stepney it can be focused that the main issue was actually deciding whether the employer was in breaching their duty to care as there Are no specific criteria, for example, the defendant commented that normal-sighted employees do not tend to be given or encouraged to wear goggles and so the defendant treated the claimant equally, and this is the main issue as this underlined defendant breaching its duty to care of the claimant. The court did take into consideration that the defendant owed the duty of care to the claimant as the claimant did only have sight in the one eye and thus, there was more of a chance that the harm would be worse in comparison that would be inflicted on a normally-sighted person. Therefore, it meant that a fair person would take greater steps than usual to protect him.
Section B: Analysis of the Judgements (40 marks)
Initially, in the High court, Justice Lynckey ruled in favour of Mr Paris and quoting “I am satisfied that there was, so far as this particular plaintiff was concerned, a duty upon the employers to provide goggles as part of their system. In these circumstances it seems to me that the employers have failed in their duty and the plaintiff is entitled to recover” (1) Although, the Court of appeal then decided they were in favour of Stepney Borough, Lord Chief Justice Goddard voiced “Mr Paris was not exposed to any greater damage than any other man who was employed in the garage; it was not in itself a dangerous operation; the goggles were not a thing which it was the duty of employers to provide…therefore there was no duty to provide goggled, just because if an accident consequences would be greater to one man than to another” (1). Furthermore, 5 law lords voted 3:2 in favour of Mr Paris’ appeal. Lord Morton of Henryton believed “I see two alternatives (a) the employers were negligent in not inviting all employees wore goggles or (b) the risk of injury was so remote that it cannot be seen as negligence” (1). However, Lord Normand was quick to disagree and highlighted how “blindness is so great a calamity that even the loss of one of the two good eyes is not comparable, and the risk of blindness from sparks of metal is greater for a one-eyed man than for a two-eyed man” (1). The overall count was 5:4 in favour of Stepney Borough council and so the final decision was in favour of Mr Paris, due to a breach of duty by the employed and thus, Mr Paris was awarded £5,250 in damages. Thus, this shines a spotlight on how the judges reached their decision due to the breach of duty. Also, it can be underlined that influenced by the Crowns proceedings act 1947 it focuses on that an employer is subject to liability in tort if it breaches the standard of care.
The House of Lords decided it was a breach of duty and mainly due to the claimant being blind in one eye, it must be highlighted that if the claimant, Mr Paris was not blind in one eye this would not be considered a breach of duty. Thus, Mr Paris’ claim was a success and did the result is awards of £5250 in damages, and as his employer was aware that one of his eyes were blind and yet was failed to be given a set of goggles. However, the claimant initially argued that all employees, despite eyesight loss should be given protective goggles, although this claim was not a success. It was quoted by Lord Normand, “If there is no proof that a precaution is usually observed by other persons, a reasonable and prudent man will follow the usual practice in the like circumstances. Failing such proof the test is whether the precaution is one which the reasonable and prudent man would think too obvious that it was folly to omit it”.(2) Indicating that an employer must take into consideration of any particular vulnerabilities an employee is sensitive to, such as Mr Paris one blind eye.
Additionally, there were points of law, that did not decide the outcome of this particular case, for example, inspired from the Employment Rights Act 1996 (3), in particular, health and safety, potentially in the future it should be focused that individuals with specialties, such as Mr Paris of being blind in one eye, should be prioritised in terms of protection and help, especially in a job such as mechanics.
Moreover, the overall vote was 5:4 in favour of Stepney Borough council and so therefore despite the overall decision was in favour of Mr Paris, there was judges with dissenting judgements such as Lord Simmonds who believed “…it was not part of the system of work to provide goggles for the two-eyed man because the degree of risk did not demand that precaution in a reasonable employer therefore I do not think there was evidence on which it could fairly be held that the same reasonable employer was bound at his peril to provide goggles for one-eyed men” (2) . In opposition to Lord McDermott who was allowing the appeal and mentioned “…if a particular workman is likely to suffer a grave injury than his fellows this must be taken into consideration when assessing the nature of the employer’s obligation to that workman”.(2) This highlights how not all judges agreed to be in favour of Mr Paris, although the court was in favour of him.
Section C: Your Commentary (40 marks)
On the other hand, it must be mentioned that the Paris v Stepney Borough council was decided on 13 December 1950, and so it must be analysed that there was not really an employment rights act as it came after in 1996, so health and safety wasn’t correct and formally explained to employers and therefore there were no criteria to be matched as to what is right and wrong for both the employer and employees. However, in regards to Paris, it could arguably be considered consider common sense that as the employer they should have taken more care knowing he was already blind in one eye. Though, if the operation being done is dangerous, then further duty of care will be organised, however due to it not being commonly done and so in this particular if there is care of duty to provide goggles for those with perfect sight, the same would go with the ones with less good eyesight, such as Paris. in the case Roe v Ministry of Health (4), duty of care was questioned similarly to Paris v Stepney. Two claimants were given anaesthetic. Somehow the anaesthetic was contaminated with a sterilising fluid, in result of this contamination, both claimants were now paralysed for lifetimes. It was due to the anaesthetic being contaminted. it was later found out that anaesthetic was mixed in glass ampoules which were mixed with the sterilising fluid, this was not detectable by the human eye. despite the hospital not being aware of that they were using the anaesthetic as normal. However, there was still not a breach of duty in regards to care, but, it was an mistake that was not knew about and it simply was not foreseeable.
It can be discussed that the decision was appropriate particularly in light of the interpretation of applicable law, as to some it is fairly straightforward to see the breach of duty and therefore, the court is in favour of Mr Paris shows that the interpretation of that breach is applicable Law. In the case Iman Abouzaid v Mothercare (5) where the defendant, then 12 years old was attaching “Cosytoes” sleeping bag to a pushchair, it was meant to attach by two elastic straps and then joined by a metal buckle at the back of the pushchair, however when the claimant was doing so one of the elastic straps slipped from his grasp, and so the elastic got loose enabling the metal buckle to hit his left eye and so the claimant had lost central vision. Moreover, the claimant fought a case under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and also in negligence. However, it was not long after that the Court of Appeal found that the defendant had not been negligent, but the product was faulty due to it having a default.
It is indicated that the court did arrive at the correct conclusion in law, after being heard in three courts, it is natural for there to be dissenting judgements, although overall the decision of Mr Paris being in favour and being awarded damages seemed to be the correct decision in light of the facts, and it can be argued, but it is the duty of the employer to be responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Thus, arguably there has been a breach of duty. Stepney Borough Council owed a special duty of care to Paris and were negligent in failing to supply him with goggles, even though sufficient equipment was not given to other employees. This was also seen in Walker v Northumberland County Council (6) where the defendant was a manager at social services where he was suffering from a mental breakdown and thus lead to four months off work, however, the defendants’ employers refused to give the increased support he was requested. Despite this, he then returned back to work, although was not given then the guidance to enable to do what was being demanded and so he took further sick leave, however, he was then he was then dismissed. Additionally, likewise in the Paris v Stepney case, the defendant claimed the employer was breaching their duty to care. Similarly to Paris v Stepney the employer was liable in negligence for a second work stress-induced nervous breakdown.