Fairman v Perpetual Investment Building Society: HL 1923

The defendants owned a block of flats that were tenanted. The plaintiff lived as a lodger with her sister in one of the flats. She was injured when walking down the steps from her flat; the steps were part of the common property under the control of the landlord. The plaintiff argued that she was an invitee of the landlord and thus was owed a higher standard of care than would have been owed to a licensee.
Held: An invitee of a tenant was only a licensee of the landlord when using the stairway. In fact, the plaintiff would have lost on the facts, whether she was an invitee or a licensee, because the defect in the step on which she had slipped was perfectly obvious.
Lord Wrenbury stated: ‘There are some things which a reasonable person is entitled to assume, and as to which he is not blameworthy if he does not see them when if he had been on the alert and had looked he could have seen them.’ His Lordship then instanced the case of a staircase with a missing stair, or a ladder in which a rung has been removed, and went on to say that no reasonable person would expect that a step or a rung had been removed and added pungently: ‘he has nevertheless suffered from what has generally been called ‘a trap’ although if had stopped and looked he would have seen that the step or rung had been removed. He was not guilty of negligence, he was not bound to look out for such an unexpected danger as that, although if he had proceeded cautiously and looked out it would have been obvious to him.’


Lord Wrenbury, Lord Sumner, Lord Atkinson


[1923] AC 74, 92 LJKB 50


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBath v Escott ChD 11-May-2017
Judgment need not follow hearing transcript
Application to have released the audio recording of a hearing to a county court, the applicant saying that the judgment was not a true record of the hearing.
Held: Rose J explained the status of the various elements: ‘the mere fact that the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Negligence, Landlord and Tenant

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.583993