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Ferguson v Welsh [1987] 1 WLR 1553  House of Lords

Sedgefield District Council, in pursuance of a development plan to build sheltered accommodation, engaged the services of Mr Spence to demolish a building. It was a term of the contract that the work was not to be sub-contracted out. In breach of this term, Mr Spence engaged the services of the Welsh brothers to carry out the demolition who in turn engaged the services of Mr Ferguson to assist. Mr Ferguson suffered serious injury resulting in permanent paralysis when a wall he was standing on collapsed due to the unsafe practices operated by the Welsh brothers. He brought an action against the Council, Mr Spence and the Welsh brothers. The trial judge held that the Welsh Brothers were liable but that Mr Spence and the Council were not liable. Mr Ferguson appealed against the finding against the Council since the Welsh Brothers (or Mr Spence) had the funds or insurance to meet liability.


The appeal was dismissed.

Mr Ferguson was a lawful visitor despite the clause forbidding sub-contracting since Mr Spence would have apparent or ostensible authority to invite him on to the land. However, the danger arose from the unsafe system of work adopted by the Welsh Brothers not the state of the premises. Whilst there was evidence that Mr Spence had sub-contracted demolition work to those executing unsafe practices on  previous occasions, there was no evidence that the Council were aware of this.
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