The Queensland District Court has recently cleared an apartment
manager of liability to the guest of a holiday apartment who
sustained a needlestick injury in the apartment, finding that the
risk of harm was not reasonably foreseeable. The Court indicated
that if the guest had been successful, she would have been awarded
damages of almost $500,000.
The guest was staying at an apartment rented via the popular
accommodation website Wotif. She was injured by a discarded needle
that was stuck in a crease in a staircase inside the apartment. She
sued the manager (Wright v K B Nut Holdings P/L  QDC
Before the apartment was occupied by the guest, it had been
cleaned by subcontractor cleaners, who had not discovered the
needle. The guest was injured when she was cleaning the stairs,
having felt that the apartment was not clean enough on her
The Court held that it was not reasonable to expect that an
apartment manager or cleaner would search and discover a concealed
needle in the crease of a stairwell. A reasonable person in the
position of the apartment manager would not take any precautions in
addition to those that were taken. These included engaging the
cleaners, inspecting their work and inspecting the apartment
While the manager had done all that was reasonable in the
circumstances to ensure the apartment was fit for habitation, what
is reasonable in a different case will depend on a multitude of
factors. Important considerations in this case included the size
and location of the needle, as well as the absence of a needle
apparatus such as a plastic syringe.
The guest was unable to establish that a more competent cleaner
or system of cleaning would have led to the discovery of the
needle. This case reminds us that:
An occupier's duty to take reasonable care to avoid
foreseeable risk of harm at a property always remains with the
occupier. It is not a duty that can be delegated to third party
cleaners (although contractual rights of indemnity may apply).
While the engagement of cleaners may help establish that
reasonable steps were taken to satisfy the duty of care, additional
safety precautions are necessary.
Advisable precautions include regular and reasonably thorough
property inspections. These inspections may not prevent all
injuries, but they are critical to satisfying the duty of care and
will reduce the risks of injury and subsequent litigation.
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