Q&A - Can casual gardener sue me for accident sustained using my tools?

Q:  At the beginning of the summer I engaged a local odd job man to cut my hedges. I thought it would make it easier for him if he used my electric hedge-cutters and also my ladders. Unfortunately, however, the ground was uneven and the hedge-cutter was heavier than he was used to. As a result, when he reached across he lost his balance, the ladder toppled over and the hedge-cutter sliced into two of his fingers. I took him straight to hospital where they stitched the fingers. Now he is threatening to sue me for compensation because he has no feeling in the fingers and says he cannot work. Can he really do this?

A:  He can threaten to sue but the chances of success depend on the precise facts of the case.   Although you would almost certainly not be regarded as the Employer of the odd job man, liability may exist under certain Regulations usually only aimed at Employers e.g. Work at Height Regulations 2005. In a recent High Court case the Judge ruled that the 2005 Regulations may apply "where the householder had played an unusually large role in the planning, management and/or execution of the work".

The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 may also apply and impose liability on you as occupier of your house for the injuries.  Occupiers are under a duty to take care to make sure that the premises are safe for visitors and for the purposes for which the visitor was invited.

Liability depends very much on the facts of each individual case. If you do receive any correspondence or Court papers from the odd job man, or his representatives, you should contact a solicitor immediately for advice.