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Contractor Owes Limited Duty of Care to Third Party

28th October, 2014

Many types of construction and maintenance work have associated risks and when such a risk is identified there is a duty to warn others of the dangers it raises, specifically under the contract terms or under common law.

The limitations of the duty under common law were clarified by a recent case concerning a tree that fell onto a railway track.

South West Trains issued proceedings not only against the property owner on whose land the tree was situated but also against the tree surgeon who had cropped the tree for the owner.

South West Trains claimed that the tree surgeon had a duty to warn them of the risk that the tree could fall onto the track.

The High Court rejected the claim, finding that the tree surgeon’s duty to warn the train operator would only apply had he found that the tree was ‘obviously dangerous’. He did not owe South West Trains a greater duty and was under no obligation to search for obvious dangers: his duty extended only to those items which had come to his attention in the course of his work or those which should reasonably have done so.

If you are concerned about potential risks presented to the public or others by issues on your property or in relation to your work, please contact Beth Wheatley on 01244 405546 or email [email protected].

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