There has been a recent District Court case in the District Court at Maroochydore where the buyer of a property brought a claim against the seller for damages for personal injury suffered by the buyer after an inspection of the property.
The property was a rural property on which the seller operated a mobile sawmill.
On an inspection of the property by the buyer, the buyer was in his car and looking out at the property and enjoying the aspect of the property. The buyer had intended to take some photographs and was walking to take the photographs in an area near the mobile sawmill where there was sawdust on the ground and tripped over a stick that was in the sawdust. The buyer sued the seller for damages for personal injuries.
The standard terms of the Contract provide that the property is at the risk of the buyer from the first business day after the date of the contract. The seller claimed that as a risk had passed to the buyer that they did not have any liability. However, the Court ruled that the risk passed only in the real estate and the seller was still liable as lawful occupiers for claims for personal injury.
The Court needed to consider whether the buyer could prove negligence on the part of the seller and after looking at the background of the incident, found that there had been no negligence proved. The Court found that the buyer could not prove any negligence on the part of the seller and commented that the buyer, by failing to keep any lookout in the area – which called for such – was the sole author of his own misfortune.
Whilst the buyer did not succeed in this case because it could not prove negligence, it is a warning to sellers. Even if it is a vacant lot, sellers should still have public liability in place if there are to be inspections by buyers and agents.