Most Read Contributor in Hong Kong, September 2016
Keywords: High Court, Yau Tsz Hin v. Broadway
Theatre Company Limited
In a recent decision handed down by the High Court, Yau Tsz Hin
v. Broadway Theatre Company Limited, HCPI 674 of 2010, the cinema
successfully defended a 'slip and fall' claim lodged by its
patron. The conduct of the defence focussed on the cinema having in
place an adequate cleaning and inspection system. The High Court
accepted this and held that the cinema had discharged its
reasonable duty of care owed to its visitors.
The plaintiff was one of the cinema's patrons. It was her
case that she slipped and fell down a flight of stairs as she was
making her way back down to the theatre after visiting the
lavatory. The plaintiff alleged the steps of the stairs were
rendered wet and slippery by the soles of her shoes after she had
treaded across the wet lavatory floor. She also alleged the
staircase was insufficiently lit.
In order to establish that the cinema had discharged its duty by
reason of its adequate cleaning and inspection system, the cinema
put forward evidence that it:
a. engaged a competent cleaning contractor;
b. ensured the toilet was cleaned at regular intervals;
c. assigned staff to patrol the stairs every 20 minutes; and
d. kept the staircase adequately lit.
Despite the fact that the cleaning records could no longer be
retrieved, item (b) was covered by oral evidence given by a member
of the cleaning staff employed by the cinema's contractor.
Similarly, although there were no records directly relevant to
the patrolling of the flight of stairs, item (c) was established by
the fact that (i) inspections were conducted at timely intervals
(against illegal filming etc.) at each theatre and (ii) the staff
would have to pass-by the relevant flight of stairs when conducting
these inspections due to the configuration of the cinema.
The High Court accepted the cinema's evidence entirely and
dismissed the plaintiff's case for want of liability.
The Court held that the cinema had discharged its duties as
occupier to take reasonable care to see that the lavatory floor and
steps were kept reasonably safe and free from accumulation of
water. In particular, the court took the view that it is not
reasonable to expect the cinema to station cleaning staff at each
lavatory to mop up any water as soon as it may appear on the
As a side note, although it is not disputed that a mat was
placed outside the toilet after the alleged accident, the High
Court held that "the fact that a mat was subsequently
installed does not mean there was negligence before arising from
Conclusion and takeaway
This Judgment reinforces the legal position that the standard of
care owed by an occupier to its visitor is ultimately a reasonable
one. It would not be assumed that the mere occurrence of a
'slip and fall' accident means that liability on the part
of the occupier should automatically be inferred.
From a practical point of view, the takeaway is that although
the preservation of contemporaneous evidence, i.e., cleaning and
patrol records, is important, a successful defence is also
dependent on reliable oral evidence.
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This article provides information and comments on legal
issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a
comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
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