Roles v Nathan: CA 15 May 1963

Two chimney sweeps were overcome by fumes, and died in the basement of the Manchester Assembly Rooms. Whilst occupied working in flues (against advice), a boiler had been lit.
Held: (Majority – Pearson LJ dissenting) The land-owner’s appeal succeeded.
Lord Denning MR said: ‘the warnings which were given to the sweeps were enough to enable them to be reasonably safe. The sweeps would have been quite safe if they had heeded these warnings. They should not have come back that evening and attempted to seal up the sweep-hole while the fire was still alight. They ought to have waited till next morning, and then they should have seen that the fire was out before they attempted to seal up the sweep-hole. In any case they should not have stayed too long in the sweep-hole. In short, it was entirely their own fault. The Judge held that it was contributory negligence. I would go further and say that under the Act the occupier has, by the warnings, discharged his duty.’
Harman LJ said: ‘the sweeps had been warned by the occupier through his agent, Collingwood, of the danger which killed them. That, however, as the section says does not without more absolve the occupier from liability. The crucial question is whether, in all the circumstances, the warning was ‘enough to enable the visitors’ ( that is, the sweeps )’to be reasonably safe’. In my judgment,it was. The occupier did not request or even authorise the sweeps to close the sweep hole while the fire was alight. Mr Corney did not expect the return of the sweeps on Friday night; they told him they were coming back in the morning. He had arranged that they should do the work on Saturday morning. He said also that he anticipated that the fire burning on Friday night would be out by Saturday morning, thus making the work safe. It is true that the caretaker apparently did not let the fire out, and it is said that Corney failed in his duty because he did not expressly order the caretaker to do so, nor did he expressly forbid the sweeps to attempt the work with the fire on. Nevertheless, these sweeps knew as much about the danger as he did. There was no obligation on than to proceed without drawing the fire, they were free to do so, and they deliberately chose to assume the risk notwithstanding the advice given.’
Lord Denning MR, Harman, Pearson LJJ
[1963] EWCA Civ 6, [1963] 1 WLR 1117, [1963] 2 All ER 908
Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957
England and Wales
CitedLondon Graving Dock Co Ltd v Horton HL 1951
An experienced welder had for a month been carrying out work on a ship as an employee of sub-contractors engaged by ship-repairers in occupation of the ship. He was injured, without negligence on his part, owing to the inadequacy of certain staging, . .
CitedChristmas v Caledonian Club 1952
A window cleaner. employed by independent contractors, came to clean the windows of a club. One window was defective, falling onto and trapping his hand, causing him to fall.
Held: He had no cause of action against the club. The landowner was . .
CitedGreene v Chelsea Borough Council CA 1954
Lord Denning MR said: ‘Knowledge or notice of the danger is only a defence when the plaintiff is free to act upon that knowledge or notice so as to avoid the danger’. . .

Cited by:
CitedWhite v Blackmore CA 15-Jun-1972
The plaintiff attended a jalopy car race and was injured. It was a condition of his entry that he agreed that motor racing was dangerous and that he would not hold the organisers or others responsible if injured. He was injured when a safety rope, . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 May 2021; Ref: scu.262804