Jean McNeil Shepherd v. Travelodge Hotels Limited, 7 November 2014 – Hotel’s liability for injury caused by diesel spill in car park where accident occurs some distance from original spill

Outer House case in which Mrs Shepherd sought damages from Travelodge following an injury sustained after slipping and falling following a diesel spill in Travelodge’s car park (situated near Dreghorn Services in Edinburgh).

Mr and Mrs Shepherd were motorcyclists and met other members of the Dunedin Chapter of the Harley Davidson Motor Cycle Club in the Travelodge car park (between 8.30 and 8.45) prior to riding to Staffordshire for an event. Before the bikers arrived there had been a diesel spill in the car park.

A manageress at Travelodge was informed of the spill sometime between 8.15 and 8.30. She logged a job with Travelodge’s maintenance company (in order to have the spill cleaned up) then phoned Travelodge’s health and safety manager and her divisional manager. On the advice of the health and safety manager, the manageress cordoned off the car park and put notices up saying that the car park was closed and advising that there had been spillage.

The bikers left the car park about 9am then stopped at Glencorse Barracks where Mrs Shepherd slipped and fell. The Court found, on the balance of probabilities, that the accident had been caused by diesel picked up by Mrs Shepherd on her boots at the Travelodge car park.

Mrs Shepherd argued that Travelodge were liable for the accident as they:

  1. had breached their duty of care due in terms of s2 of the Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960;
  2. had breached their common law duty of care; and
  3. were vicariously liable for a breach of duty by the manageress.

Lord Boyd found that the accident had been foreseeable and the fact that it had happened some distance away from the original spill did not matter. In coming to this conclusion he noted that it was important that Mrs Shepherd had slipped as a result of diesel on the sole of her own boots and that it may have been different (i.e. not foreseeable) if she had slipped on diesel transferred to Glencorse on the soles of the boots of the other bikers.

 Lord Boyd also found that there was a duty of care both at common law and under the 1960 Act, noting that Travelodge were occupiers of the car park to which the public had access. That duty conferred an obligation on Travelodge to have a sign posted[1] at the entrance to the car park either closing the car park or at the very least warning people entering the car park of the danger.  The obligation would also extend to advising people who already had cars in the car park of the danger of slipping on the diesel. Travelodge had put up signs in this case, fulfilling the obligation and meeting the duty of care.

As to the actions of the manageress, Lord Boyd found that arguments to the effect that she should have acted more quickly were potentially problematic. From the evidence, the time frame between the Manageress finding out about the spillage and Mr and Mrs Shepherd arriving at the car park may be as little as a few minutes or, at the longest, half an hour. It was suggested that she may have sought the advice from the health and safety manager and carried out her instructions before contacting the maintenance company but Lord Boyd was not satisfied[2], on the balance of probabilities, that even if she had done so, the car park would have been closed before Mr and Mrs Shepherd arrived.

 As a result, Lord Boyd found in favour of Travelodge.

The full judgement is available from Scottish courts here.

All of our property and conveyancing case summaries are contained in the LKS Property and Conveyancing Casebook here.


[1] Although the diesel was visible in the wet by means of the distinctive rainbow effect in the water, Lord Boyd did not consider that it would be so obvious to a motorist, motor cyclist or pedestrian that there was no need to put up any sign. As such, the circumstances of this case were very different to those in Leonard v Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Authority.

[2] It was noted that the suggestion was made with the benefit of hindsight and it was difficult to say that the manageress was in breach of her duty of care by arranging for the spill to be cleaned up as a priority.

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