MARK DANIELS - Adviser on visitor and occupational health and safety at historic buildings, parks, gardens, coast and countryside

News archive June 2014

11th June 2014

Civil court case following tree failure

An interesting and important civil case was heard in the High Court in May 2014 (judgement published in June 2014). In Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd v Hind and another [2014] EWHC 1891 (TCC), the High Court considered the extent of a landowner's duties to inspect its trees.

In considering the extent of an ordinary landowner's duties in relation to its trees, the High Court has reviewed case law and held that while an ordinary landowner is obliged to carry out regular, informal inspections of the trees on its land, in the absence of any trigger or warning signs, a reasonable and prudent landowner is not obliged to engage an arboriculturalist to carry out periodic inspections.

The full judgement is here - http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/TCC/2014/1891.html.

16th June 2014

Inquest into 2012 fatality caused by falling tree at Kew Gardens

An inquest was held in June 2014 into the death of Erena Wilson, who was killed by a falling branch from a cedar tree at Kew Gardens in 2012. The accident and the inquest received extensive media coverage.

The death was recorded as accidental, and there was not enough evidence to attribute the cause of branch failure to the phenomenon of summer branch drop. The Coroner decided she would not take up her option to make a Prevention of Future Deaths report (coroners have a duty to make reports to a person, organisation, local authority or government department or agency where he/she believes that action should be taken to prevent future deaths) – this suggests that no specific actions or failings emerged at the inquest that merited a formal report.

In some ways, from the media coverage, this inquest appeared quite adversarial, with the lawyer representing the family putting forward arguments that seemed to be aimed at establishing the basis for a case in the civil courts around liability, and with two well-respected experts having differing views about the cause and the quality of Kew Gardens’ tree safety management system.

A full account can be found on Horticulture Week’s web page at http://www.hortweek.com/news/1299047/death-kew-visitor-hit-branch-accidental-inquest-finds/.

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