The respondent had agreed to erect a conservatory for the appellant. During the works the respondent had climbed a stepladder and had rested the inner end of a rafter on a lip or flange, which ran round the spider. The respondent inserted a fixing screw, which was supposed to secure the end of the rafter to the spider, and had thought that he tightened it by hand until it had engaged.

He then descended the ladder in order to fetch the screwdriver, with which he intended to tighten the screw firmly. While the respondent was climbing back up the ladder the appellant stepped into the conservatory. At that moment the strut fell and the appellant sustained serious injuries to his eye.

The appellant brought legal proceedings against the respondent in respect of the incident. The recorder found that the respondent owed the appellant a duty of care and that the relevant standard was that appropriate to a general labourer. The respondent agreed that he had owed a duty of care but maintained that he had discharged that duty by finger tightening the securing screw to prevent the strut falling.

The recorder found that it was reasonable for a general labourer to believe that by finger tightening the screw the rafter would be safe for such short time. The recorder added that if his findings as to liability were wrong then the appellant had contributed to the accident to the extent of 50% by entering the conservatory before ensuring that it was safe to do so.

The appellant challenged the recorder’s findings both as primary liability and contributory negligence. The appellant contented that the recorder wrongly treated the respondent as an unskilled neighbour helping out a friend, when in reality he was quite experienced in a variety of building tasks and had contracted to undertake the work.