Shtern v Cummings – Case Summary

Adele Shtern v Monica Cummings

Privy Council (Jamaica)

Citations: [2014] UKPC 18.


The claimant was a tourist staying at a Jamaican hotel. She was electrocuted and injured opening a fridge within the hotel. She issued proceedings against three defendants in occupier’s liability.

The first defendant, a company, ran the hotel. The second defendant owned the land on which the hotel sat and was the controlling shareholder and director of the first defendant. She lived on the land, but in a house rather than in the hotel itself. She also bought the fridge in question. The third defendant was the hotel manager, who died before trial.

The Jamaican Court of Appeal held that the first defendant was liable, but that the second defendant could not be liable as she was not the occupier of the hotel.

  1. Was the second defendant an occupier of the hotel?

The Privy Council upheld the decision of the Jamaican Court of Appeal. While the second defendant owned the land on which the hotel sat, she had no operational control of the hotel. The company possessed the fridge and the hotel, and had control over the area in question.

This Case is Authority For…

Ownership of land may not be enough to constitute occupation if another person has exclusive operational control over the part of the land where the accident took place.