Court of Appeal Rules on Occupier's Duty in Personal Injury Claim Arising from Car Park Fall

Citation: [2023] EWCA Civ 1507
Judgment on


The Court of Appeal’s decision in Kanwarjit Singh Juj v John Lewis Partnership Plc centers on a personal injury claim arising from a fall in a car park, engaging issues of occupiers’ liability, risk assessment, duty of care, and causation. The case provides an examination of the extent of duty owed by an occupier under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and how it applies to the facts, the response required to obvious dangers, and the obligations implied by the level of control over premises.

Key Facts

The appellant, Kanwarjit Singh Juj, suffered a fall resulting in personal injuries in a car park next to a Waitrose store owned by John Lewis Partnership Plc (the defendant). The parking bay where Juj fell was uniquely designed, being narrower and kerbed on both sides, unlike other bays in the same car park. The fall occurred while the claimant attempted to step onto the kerb and misjudged the height, despite being aware of the kerb’s presence. Prior accidents in the same location were reported to the council by the store manager, with suggestions for improved safety measures that were largely unheeded.

The claim was initially against the supermarket as an ‘occupier’ under the 1957 Act for breaching its duty of care. At the first trial and subsequent appeal, judgment was entered for the defendant.

The legal principles central to this case involve the definition and extent of an ‘occupier’s’ duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 (the 1957 Act). The 1957 Act mandates a common duty of care, which encompasses taking reasonable steps to ensure that a visitor is safe using the premises for their intended purpose.

Occupier’s Duty

The key principle established by Lord Denning in Wheat v E Lacon & Co Ltd [1966] AC 552 was applied, noting that control over premises, even when shared, confers the status of ‘occupier’ and implicates the duty of care towards visitors. The court specifically considered the degree of control exercised by an entity over the premises when determining liability.

Assessment of Risk

The judge noted that an occupier does not have to warn against or protect from dangers that are obvious. Notably, Tomlinson v Congleton BC [2004] 1 AC 46 and Edwards v Sutton [2016] EWCA Civ 1005 support the position that not every foreseeable risk must be guarded against, only that visitors be ‘reasonably safe’.


The principle of causation was assessed through the facts, centering on whether the defendant’s breach of duty - the failure to report earlier accidents - could have changed the outcome. Drawing from Bolitho v City and Hackney Health Authority [1998] AC 232, the court assessed what would have happened if the omissions had not occurred, concluding that based on Hillingdon’s prior inaction, reporting earlier incidents would likely not have made a difference.


The Court concluded that the defendant was limited in its control over the car park and that its duties were confined to dealing with immediate hazards and informing Hillingdon of potential long-term problems. The defendant was found not to be negligent because the claimant was aware of the kerb’s presence, and therefore, the risk was obvious. The accident was described as a ‘true accident’ in that no omission on the part of the defendant contributed to the incident.


This decision affirms that an occupier’s duty under the 1957 Act has limits, particularly in the context of hazards that are open and obvious. Despite having some degree of control, the supermarket’s responsibilities did not extend to redesigning or altering the car park layout as it was not the owner. The case underscores the principle that while occupiers must ensure safety, they are not insurers of visitors’ safety against all risks, especially when those risks are apparent. The judgment also reinforces the significance of causation in occupiers’ liability claims, resting on a factual inquiry into the likelihood of a different outcome should the occupier have acted differently.