In a new ruling, the Supreme Court establishes the limits of the employer's liability in case of an employee's sliding accident. The ruling states that the liability for a sliding accident must be evaluated based on the general and less strict landowner liability if the accident happens in an area which is not used during the performance of the work or constitutes an immediate access way to the work place.

The case concerned the question whether an employer's liability in damages for an employee's fall due to slippery roads was to be considered based on landowner liability or the stricter employer's liability. At 21:25, the employee fell at a parking space owned by the employer. The accident happened as the employee was getting out of his car when he fell due to glaze, which resulted in a permanent injury.

According to working environmental legislation, the employer is obligated to ensure that the employees can walk safely around the areas used during the performance of the work. It was therefore decisive whether the parking space was characterised as an area used during the performance of the work or whether it was an access way to the work place.

We have previously described the legal action before the district and the high courts.

THE SUPREME COURT: DIFFERENTIATED ASSESSMENT OF EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY

The Supreme Court attached importance to the fact that the parking space, where the accident happened, was not used during the performance of the work or constituted an access way to the work place. The employer's special obligation under the general rules to ensure that the employees can walk around safely at the work place and in the areas used during the performance of the work could, according to the Supreme Court, not be extended to include a parking space not used during the performance of the work, and which was not an immediate access way to the work place.

A Supreme Court majority therefore ruled that, in this situation, the employer's liability is to be assessed based on general landowner liability in relation to winter maintenance.

The employer had performed winter maintenance in the morning and was carrying out winter maintenance when the employee appeared at work around 21:00 that evening. However, winter maintenance had not yet been carried out at that time at the parking space.

Considering that no information was available indicating that other measures should have been taken in relation to the weather conditions, the Supreme Court found that the employer had carried out sufficient winter maintenance and was therefore not liable in damages.

COMMENTS

A Supreme Court majority (4-1) affirmed the High Court ruling, but on different grounds.

According to the Supreme Court, there is no stricter liability in relation to the employer's winter maintenance if the area is not a part of the work place or an access way to the work place. In this situation, the employer will only be subject to general landowner liability in relation to winter maintenance.

This ruling changes case law, which, since the Western High Court ruling in 2010, has established that an employer's liability to perform winter maintenance was to be assessed based on a strict liability standard exceeding the general landowner liability.

This changed case law implies that it is now decisive whether the area in question is used during the performance of the work or constitutes an immediate access way to the work place. In areas which are owned by the employer, but which are not used during the performance of the work or constitutes an access way, the employer will not be subject to stricter liability than that of a general landowner in relation to winter maintenance. In these situations, it is therefore sufficient that reasonable efforts were made to avoid slippery roads

contacts

Finn Schwarz

Managing Partner

Maria Schmiegelow

Attorney