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Latimer was employed by A.E.C.. On the afternoon of the day of the accident, an exceptionally heavy rainstorm had flooded the whole of A.E.C.'s premises. Oil, which normally ran in covered channels in the floor of the building, rose to the surface and when the water drained away, left an oily film on the floor. A.E.C. took measures to clean away the oil, using all the sawdust available to them. Latimer came on duty with the night shift, unaware of the condition of the floor. While endeavouring to place a heavy barrel on a trolley, his foot slipped on the still oily surface, he fell on his back, and the barrel crushed his left ankle. The trial judge found a breach of common law duty which was reversed by the Court of Appeal.


  1. Was the risk considerable?
  2. Should the factory have been closed down?


There was no breach of duty. There was no duty to close the factory. The defendant only had to take reasonable precautions to minimise the risk which they had done. There was no need to go to great expense to eliminate any possible risk and thus no obligation to close the factory.


Lord Porter states that their duty is to determine what action a reasonable person would have taken in the circumstances given the circumstances that no one else slipped or even acknowledged that there was a reasonable risk of doing so. Even the safety engineer did not state that any more steps than were taken should have been performed. In order to succeed, Latimer would need to prove that a reasonable employer would have shut the factory down because the risks involved in working were too high – and he did not succeed in proving this.


A defendant does not have to totally eliminate the risk but must do as much as the reasonable person would do in the circumstances.