Employer not liable for employee´s falls at a slippery parking space. Eastern High Court applies more differentiated assessment of standard liability.
The employee fell at 21:15 at the employer's parking space due to ice.
The same morning, the employer had initiated de-icing and, due to the weather conditions, the employer started de-icing again the same evening at 21:00. The parking space where the accident happened had not yet been de-iced.
The injured employee had succeeded with his claim for damages before the district court, and the employer was therefore liable in damages for the accident.
EASTERN HIGH COURT RULING
The court found in favour of the employer stating the following:
"According to the information on the weather conditions that day compared to the fact that winter maintenance had been carried out after the snowfall, and that the employer was carrying out winter maintenance for the second time that day, the court finds that, irrespective of whether liability rests on the employer or the landowner, the employer has fulfilled the usual requirements for winter maintenance. The employer is therefore not subject to any liability."
THE WESTERN HIGH COURT'S PRACTICE
In 2001, the Western High Court ruled against an employer as an employee had slipped on an area, which had not yet been de-iced at 07:00 and, as the area was a parking space belonging to the employer, the court found that the employer was subject to "a more extended liability compared to the usual landowner liability to ensure that the employees can walk around safely in an area which is used during the performance of the work."
Based on this ruling, it has been a general assumption that a very strict liability standard applies in relation to employers - a liability standard exceeding the usual landowner liability.
The Eastern High Court does not decide on whether the employer's liability is more strict than or similar to landowner liability but, by ruling in favour of the employer, the court establishes that the employer's liability standard is not so strict that the employer cannot be released from liability in damages by arranging winter maintenance, even if the maintenance has not yet been carried out in the area in question.
It is natural to draw a parallel between the Eastern High Court's assessment of liability and the standard liability applicable within public winter maintenance where it is of material importance that there is a winter maintenance system, that the system reacts to changes in weather conditions but where it is not required that winter maintenance is optimal in all areas but, on the contrary, merely sufficient considering the importance of the areas and where it is further recognised that the actual maintenance actually performed may imply that some areas are not yet maintained as other areas have been given higher priority.
It will be exciting to see whether future case law will develop in the direction of a more differentiated decision on the liability standard as the Eastern High Court or whether case law will take into account the Western High Court's strict liability standard.
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