Ella Davis has successfully represented the London Borough of Southwark in a claim alleging that it had breached a duty to place a homeless applicant in suitable temporary accommodation.
The Claimant applied to the London Borough of Southwark (“the First Defendant”) for temporary accommodation. The First Defendant discharged its statutory duty by spot purchasing a room in a bed and breakfast owned and managed by the Second and Third Defendant. The room was on the top floor of the property. On his fourth day in the property the Claimant fell down the stairs, allegedly sustaining injury. His case was that his fall was due to a combination of a loose carpet, a lack of handrails, and an asthma attack which caused him to faint. The Claimant alleged that the property was in disrepair and further that the First Defendant, in view of the medical information he had disclosed, should have found him accommodation in a ground floor room.
The claim was dismissed against all three defendants. The judge did not accept that the property was in disrepair. Further, she accepted submissions made on behalf of the First Defendant that it did not owe the Claimant an actionable duty of care. Any breach of the First Defendant’s statutory duty could not give rise to a private law remedy in damages (O’Rourke v Camden  AC 188). Further, no duty arose at common law. The allegations were properly characterised as omissions rather than positive acts. In any event, the act of offering the temporary accommodation was the very statutory function against which no private right of action can arise. In addition, given the judge’s findings that the property was not in disrepair and that the Claimant had not disclosed a history of black outs and fainting, there was no foreseeable risk of injury of the type sustained. Finally, this was a not a new duty case because the very issue which the claim raised had been determined against the claimant in the case of Darby v Richmond Borough Council  EWHC 909.
Ella was instructed by Browne Jacobson LLP