Gledhill v Liverpool Abattoir Utility Company Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
Judgment Date21 February 1957
Judgment citation (vLex)[1957] EWCA Civ J0221-1
Date21 February 1957

[1957] EWCA Civ J0221-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal


The President (Lord Herriman),

Lord Justice Hodson and

Lord Justice Morris.

Tre Liverpool Abattoir Utility Company Ltd. and Liverpool Corporation,

Mr. H.I. NELSON, Q.C. and Mr. J.M. DAVIES (instructed by Messrs Cree, Godfrey & Wood, Agents for Mr. Thomas Alker, Town Clerk, Liverpool) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Second Defendants).

Mr. J.S. VATSOK, Q.C, and Mr. DUDLEY COLLARD (instructed by Mr P.R. Kifaber) appeared on behalf of the Respondents, First Defendants.

Mr. G.E. McCLELLAND (instructed by Messrs Silverman & Livermore) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Plaintiff.


: The Judgment which Lord Justice Morris is about to read is the Judgment of the Court.


The Liverpool Corporation are the owners of an abattoir which is known as the Stanley Abattoir. At the time which is relevant in this case the Ministry of Food had an arrangement with the Corporation for the use of the abattoir and the Liverpool Abattoir Utility Company Ltd. had a contract with the Ministry of Food pursuant to which they slaughtered pigs at the abattoir for the Ministry of Food. The Company, whom we will refer to as "the employers", had in their employment a slaughter man named Thomas Gledhill. The general method of procedure was that pigs were taken to a pen where they were electrically stunned. Gledhill, the Plaintiff in the action, was one who worked in the pen. There was only room for two men in the pen. After being stunned, the pigs were sent to the next floor, which was some 14 feet above. This was done by means of an elevator consisting of a continuously revolving endless conveyor belt. Suitably spaced at intervals on the conveyor belt were ring shackles. Chains were provided for attaching pigs to the elevator. Each chain had at one end a ring and at the other ends a double form of hook. The chain was handled or adjusted so as to form a slip link and this slip link was placed round the lower part of one of the rear legs of a pig. The hook at the other end of the chain was then attached to one of the upward-moving shackles. The pig, head downwards, would then be carried upwards and when the level of the floor above was reached the hook would attach to a horizontal rail or track so that the chain would then cease to be attached to the shackle when it followed a downward course on the endless conveyor belt. There would be but one pig at a time attached to the conveyor belt, but when one pig would be reaching first floor level a slaughterman would be getting ready to attach another pig. At such a moment on the 17th June, 1954, when one pig which was being elevated was practically at first floor level, Its leg slipped through the loop or slip link of its supporting chain. The pig fell down and fell upon the Plaintiff, who was injured. He brought an action against his employers. He alleged that they had, as employers, been negligent and that they had negligently failed to maintain a safe system of work. The employers by their defense denied any negligence and pleaded contributory negligence, and also pleaded that the Corporation were at fault and were in breach of statutory duty under the Factories Act, 1937. The Plaintiff thereupon joined the Corporation as Defendants, alleging that they had been guilty of breach of statutory duty and of negligence, and the employers served a notice upon the Corporation claiming indemnity or contribution.


The learned Judge held that the employers were liable to the Plaintiff in that they had negligently failed to maintain a safe system of work: he held that the Corporation were also liable to the Plaintiff. He held that the Plaintiff had not been negligent, and the Plaintiff was awarded 5600 damages against both Defendants. As between the Defendants, the learned Judge ordered that each should contribute one half of the damages and costs.


The Corporation brings this appeal against the Plaintiff and also against the employers in respect of the employers' claim against the Corporation by way of third party proceedings. The employers have not appealed against the Judgment entered against them in favors of the Plaintiff. On the findings made by the learned Judge, they have not felt able to do so. The employers do not allege that there was any contract between them and the Corporation pursuant to which the Corporation was obliged to indemnify them. At an early stage during the hearing of the appeal it was agreed between learned Counsels that if the Corporation succeeded in showing that they had neither been negligent nor had been in breach of statutory duty, the result would be that the Plaintiff would hold his Judgment as against the employers only and that in such event by appropriate Order the employers would have to bear the costs incurred by the Corporation. On this basis the case as against the Corporation was argued by learned Counsel on behalf of the employers.


As the Plaintiff will in any event recover against his employers, it does not become necessary to refer to the facts with any greater elaboration than is requisite for the purpose of considering the position of the Corporation. But certain additional facts call for mention. The chains in use at the time of the Plaintiff's injury were heavy, strong and large linked in type. That type of chain had been in use for about a year before the accident. The chains previously in use had been of a lighter type and when they were used it was easier to form a — more slip link which would/readily and firmly grip the leg of a pig than with the heavier type. The employers had requested the Corporation to supply new chains. The request was made following upon two or three occasions when the lighter chains had broken. The precise reason why those chains had broken was not established, but they had been in use for some years and one suggestion was that they had become somewhat worn.


The contracts between the Corporation and the Ministry of Food and between the Ministry of Food and the employers were not put in evidence and are not before the Court. The exact contractual obligations cannot therefore be established. The Chief Engineer of the Corporation at the abattoir thought for his part, as he said in his evidence, that the employers would look to the Corporation to supply suitable working equipment of sufficient strength and usefulness. The Corporation doubtless thought that the new chains were of this quality. In fact, they were used for a year before the Plaintiff's accident and were in use in the subsequent period of two years up to the date of the hearing.


The employers were pleased when the Corporation acceded the request for the provision of other chains. Thereafter the employers made no complaint to the Corporation in respect of the new chains save in reference to a certain stiffness in moving the chains and pigs along the horizontal rail at first floor level when the pigs were no longer on the elevator or conveyor belt. The slaughter men who used the chains did however have a further criticism or complaint. They said that with the newly-provided chains there was some difficulty experienced in making a loop or slip link which would always properly grip the leg of a pig. The learned Judge has held that this complaint was mentioned by Mr. Kelly (who was the foreman under whom the Plaintiff was working in the pig slaughtering department) to the Chief Engineer employed by the Corporation at the abattoir. The conclusion formed by the learned Judge as to the new chains was as follows: "The result was that you could not get on to the leg of a pig so taut a hold as would make perfectly certain that, upon being raised, the pig would still remain in the hold of the chain. It may be that in countless hundreds and hundreds of cases in which pigs were being raised everything went satisfactorily, but, according to the evidence which was put before the Court, there were instances – many indeed if I accept the evidence of Mr. Kelly as I do – there were many instances in which the pig had slipped and fallen back again on the floor of the pen." Mr. Kelly said that it could happen that pigs would slip out of the loops in four cases out of twenty, but also that three or four days might go by without a single pig falling. The evidence does not however establish whether, if pigs slipped, the occurrences were at about the time when the chains would take a strain while the pigs were still on or quite near to the ground or whether the occurrences were at a time when the pigs had been raised to some height above the ground. The learned Judge said: "Of course, in all eases except this one, the falling pig did no damage at all and was immediately picked up again, the same chain put round and he was lifted up and set upon his journey to the end". Mr. Kelly made complaint to his employers that the newly-provided chains were unsatisfactory and, as mentioned above, he made similar complaint direct to the Chief Engineer. The employers themselves did not make this complaint to the Corporation. The Plaintiff himself did not make complaint about the chains to the Corporation, but his evidence established quite clearly that he knew that with the newly-provided chains there was a tendency for pigs not to be gripped as well as with the thinner chains that had earlier been in use: he knew that when the thicker chains were in use there had often been occasions when pigs fell owing to their legs slipping through the loop, particularly when the chains became greasy in use owing to contact with pigs' legs: he knew that frequent complaints had been made to Mr. Kelly of the unsatisfactory features of the newly-provided chains.


It must further be mentioned that the learned Judge accepted the evidence of Mr. Hoyle, a consulting...

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    • 19 February 1958 the subject of Factory Act protection. Indeed, during the course of the argument my brother Sellers referred to the case of Gledhill v. Liverpool Abattoir, which showed that in Liverpool when that case was decided it was readily admitted that an abattoir was within the Factories Act, so ......
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