Insurance Informer: Slip and Trip (Part 1 of 2) – Dangerous Situation

​​​​​​​​​In the recent case of Davidtz v Klimax Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd (25112/2019) [2022] ZAGPPHC 904 (22 November 2022), the High Court reaffirmed that a legal duty rests on companies to prevent the damage [arising from a dangerous situation] from materialising.

On 4 May 2017, Mr Davidtz slipped on a powdery substance on the floor of Klimax Manufacturing's building, which caused him to fall down a flight of stairs. He suffered severe bodily injuries as a result of the fall.

The Court found that Klimax Manufacturing, through its employees for whom it is vicariously liable, had:

  • allowed a powdery substance to escape from its box by placing the unsealed box on the landing area of the staircase;
  • noticed the powdery substance but decided not to clean it;
  • not put up any warning signs in the area where the powdery substance had spilled; and
  • ​hung a polyester sheet which prevented Mr Davidtz from grabbing the handrailing during his fall.

Based on these factors, the Court concluded that Klimax Manufacturing had created a dangerous situation and it therefore bore a legal duty to prevent the damage from materialising. Their failure to eliminate the danger was prima facie wrongful, and the duty of care that they owed to the plaintiff had been negligently breached.

Notably, Mr Davidtz had seen the powdery substance a week prior. He conceded that a reasonable person, in the circumstances, would have arranged for the powdery substance to be cleaned and would have avoided stepping on the substance. In light of this concession, the Court determined that Mr Davidtz was also negligent and contributed 20% to his own fall.

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