• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

When Tragedy Strikes Who is Liable, Property Owners, Managers, or Occupiers?

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | When an accident or injury occurs on a property in Uganda, determining liability can be a complex process. The party responsible for the incident may vary depending on the specific circumstances, and may include the property owner, manager, or occupier, and in come cases even visitors.

One such incident occurred on New Year’s Eve 2022, when a stampede occurred at Freedom City Mall in Kampala, resulting in 11 deaths and multiple injuries. Many of the victims were children. The cause of the stampede and who responsible for the Freedom City tragedy is still under investigation.

The incident has raised questions about the safety of events held in the mall, and the responsibility of music promoters promoting them. In this particular case, the incident occurred during an event organised by music promoter, Abbey Musinguzi from Abtex Promotions. Abtex Promotions is considered the occupier of the venue at the time. 

According to Ugandan tort law, the word ‘occupier’ denotes a person(s) who has sufficient degree of control over premises/place to put them under a duty of care towards those that come lawfully on to the premises. An occupier must take all reasonable care in all circumstances to ensure that people having access to the property are safe using the premises for purposes for which the occupier invites or permits them.

It is believed the stampede took place when Abtex Promotions’ MC, Francis Jjuuko, invited revellers to go outside the hall to see the fireworks display. Security for Abitex Promotions blocked off the venue exits and entrances, leaving only one small entrance/exit gate for the people to pass through. As the visitors crammed through the narrow corridor to the single exit, several victims were caught in the crush and suffocated to death. Others were injured and taken to hospital, some of which succumbed to their injuries and later died. 

Following the incident, both Mr. Musinguzi and Mr Jjuuko were arrested by the police and later released on bail as the investigation continues. Their arrests suggest police believe they have some responsibility for the incident.

Mr. Musinguzi could be held liable for the injuries that occurred to the visitors, as he was the person in charge of the event and in control of the premises, and ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of the visitors to the event.

Mr Jjuuko could also be held liable for his actions that contributed to the dangerous situation. Likewise, Abtex Promotions’ security personnel at the event could also be held liable for their actions in blocking off the other exits.

The mall’s owner, John Sebalamu has also been questioned by police. In general, a property owner or manager may be held liable if they were aware of a dangerous condition on the property and failed to take reasonable steps to address it.

For example, if a property owner knows that an exitway is in disrepair but fails to fix it, and someone is injured as a result, the owner may be held liable for the injury. Similarly, if an owner or property manager knows that a tenant is engaging in dangerous activities on the property, and fails to take action to stop them, they may be held liable for any resulting injuries.

However, it’s important to note that a property owner or property manager can only be held liable if they knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. If an accident or injury occurs on a property due to a condition that was not known and could not have been reasonably known, it is unlikely the owner or manager will be held liable.

Where children are involved, by implication a greater level of care might be required to keep them from harm. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that parents also need to be responsible for their children.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga explains that even the parents of the minors under 18 who died in the stampede may also face charges of contributory negligence for bringing the children to an after-hours event for adults.

However, it will be important to wait for the outcome of the investigation before any conclusions can be drawn as to which parties are ultimately deemed liable.

The tragedy that occurred at Freedom City should be a lesson to all for property owners, managers, and occupiers of hotels, shops and other properties to understand their legal responsibilities, and to take steps to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring. Even caretakers, servants, or other workers may be arrested and charged with either criminal negligence or civil negligence for failure to fulfil a duty of care to visitors.

As we invite people to our properties, it’s crucial that we understand when we might be held liable in case of an accident or injury, so we can take appropriate measures to protect ourselves.