BUS203 Business Law And Ethics

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BUS203 Business Law And Ethics

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BUS203 Business Law And Ethics

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Course Code: BUS203
University: University Of The Sunshine Coast

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Country: Australia


Charlene conducts yoga classes at the Melany School of Arts building.  This building was constructed as a dance hall for US service men in 1943.  It is of timber construction with a highly polished hardwood floor.  Charlene is part time yoga instructor. She conducts one class on Tuesday nights and one class on Thursday nights.  Although Charlene holds a Certificate IV in Yoga Instruction from the Australian Yoga Institute, her regular job is as a physical education teacher at a local high school. Charlene’s operates as a sole trader and she hires the hall in her own name. She has no insurance.
Yoga is a physical discipline that involves stretching muscles and holding complex postures. Charlene’s classes are very popular and well attended. Charlene has 25 students in her Tuesday night class and an equal number of different students on Thursday night.  Each student pays an upfront fee to Charlene at the beginning of the course to cover tuition and all associated costs. Charlene asks students to sign a consent form when they start in which they consent to her instruction and disclose any pre existing illness or injuries.  The consent form makes no reference to exclusion of liability for negligence.  
Charlene limited the numbers of students because the hall is physically too small to accommodate larger groups and she has found, over the last three years of her operation, that larger groups are too difficult to effectively supervise.  Initially, Charlene conducted classes of 35.  However, she found that she was not able to effectively supervise the students and after a series of minor sprains and injuries to various students, she limited class numbers to 25.  In the 18 months since she took that action, there have been no problems.  Charlene conducts each class alone and without assistance.  
Charlene provides hot herbal tea and hot towels to students before and after the class on each night.  The tea is heated in a large urn on a table against the sidewall of the hall adjacent to the exercise floor.  The towels are heated in a steamer on the table next to the urn.
From past experience, Charlene recognises that the hall’s floor is far too slippery to effectively perform yoga upon.  She found that the provision of a temporary floor covering was too inconvenient because she had to lay and remove the covering before and after every class so that the space could be available to other hirers of the hall.  Charlene had originally purchased several large rolls of vinyl flooring to use but she found using the vinyl added two hours to her time spent at each class.  To overcome this problem, Charlene purchased a large number of cheap imported socks with rippled rubber soles.  She has found that when students use the socks they don’t slip and don’t hurt themselves. Charlene distributes the socks to each student before each class begins and collects them at the end of class to be used the following week.
Skye has attended Charlene’s Thursday night class since this year’s classes began. Skye is very tall and thin and not particularly well coordinated.  She spoke to Charlene after class one evening about her tendency to drop things and to walk into walls and her hope that yoga would help her co-ordination.
Charlene was forced to cancel her Tuesday night class a month ago because of parent teacher night commitments at her high school.  Some of the Tuesday night class were disappointed and even asked for a partial refund of their tuition fees.  Charlene responded by offering any Tuesday night student a replacement class on the next Thursday night at no extra cost.
The following Thursday night 20 Tuesday night students attended the Thursday class.  The total number of students then numbered 45.  The floor was very crowded.  Charlene prepared the tea and towels as usual.  She also issued each student with their socks with an instruction that they must wear them.  Charlene never completely explained the reason for the requirement to wear the socks but stressed that each student must wear them while on the floor.
Skye arrived a few minutes late because she had spent a few hours at an after work party where she consumed three glasses of wine.  While the class had not yet begun, she was surprised to see so many participants. Skye could not occupy her usual position at the front of the class.  Instead, she found a small space very close to the tea and towel table.
Skye decided not wear the socks provided because they were orange and she thought the colour clashed with her hot pink outfit.  Skye commenced the class barefoot.  She was the only student not to wear socks.  While performing the first posture, Sky’s left foot skidded into the leg of the table, toppling the urn and steamer onto her body.  The hot tea, towels and appliances severely scolded her skin.  
Skye was hospitalised for two weeks and requires ongoing treatment.  She has no sick leave as she works casually as a retail shop attendant. She will not be able to work for eight weeks.  Charlene visited Skye in hospital and apologised to her profusely. Skye thinks that she will take some ‘time off’ work, head to Byron Bay when she feels better and look for work around Christmas. She hopes to get a good pay out in an action against Charlene.
Advise Skye in relation to any action she may have in relation to the law of Negligence.          


The given case study deals with the relationship amid Charlene and Skye, wherein Charlene is the defendant and Skye is the Plaintiff.
Charleen was found to be negligent in her actions and thus the law and elements of negligence must be applied in the given situation. It is Skye who has to prove that Charleen was negligent in her actions. However, Charlene can take the defence of contributory negligence and may mitigate her part of liability.
The main elements that are required to prove negligence are duty of care, its breach and the damages that may result from the same.
Study and application of law
Duty of care, its breach and the resultant damages are the three main ingredients that are required to hold any defendant negligent against the plaintiff.
The law of negligence is a tort law which simply establishes the liability which may be faced by the defendant because the legal duty of care was not adequately furnished by him and because of which injury is caused to the plaintiff and it is now the obligation of the defendant to make good the loss that is suffered by the plaintiff because of the negligent actions of the defendant. In Donoghue v Stevenson, the law of negligence was developed. The main three principles to prove negliegnce are:

Every defendant should before carrying out any activity must make sure that no plaintiff should be harmed because of his actions. It is his legal duty under law of negligence that every act of his must be carried out without causing any harm to any person and is held in Graham Barclay Oysters Pty Ltd v Ryan.

But, the legal duty of care is only against those plaintiffs with whom he shares proximate relationship. The rule of proximity signifies that the plaintiff and the defendant are so close with each other that the acts of the defendant bring an impact directly upon the plaintiff and is held in Sullivan v Moody. In such cases the plaintiff and the defendant are neighbors of each other. 
Also, the defendant must make sure to bring duty of care against those actions the impact of which can be reasonably predictable by the defendant. If defendant can visualize the impact of his actions then he must carry out his actions with all due care and diligence and is held in Tame v New South Wales.
Thus, if there is presence of proximity and reasonable forseeability, then, the defendant is under duty to provide care and diligence to the plaintiff against the effect of his acts.
When the defendant is obligated to carry out his duty with all care and precautions, but, in reality he is not able to meet the required level of care that is expected from him in any given situation, then, there is breach of duty of care and is rightly established in Blake v Galloway. The breach of duty incurs when the defendant is expected to perform with certain degree of care and precautions considering the nature of care and the degree of risk involved, and when the defendant is not able to get the required level of care then there is breach of duty of care. The degree of care varies with situation to situation and thus whether a particular level of care is a breach or not also varies with the same. 
Once the duty that is imposed upon the defendant is not met by him which resulted in the breach of duty of care, in such sustained, it is very necessary that because of the breach of the duty of care there must be some kind of harm that must be inflicted upon the plaintiff. It is very necessary that some kind of harm must be faced by the plaintiff in order to hold the defendant liable under the law of negligence and is discussed in Gates v McKenna.
But, the harm that is caused to the plaintiff must be reasonably expected by the defendant like a normal prudent man in the like situation. If the damages are very remote in nature so that they cannot be predicted then there is no damages that are sustained and is discussed in Wiszniewski v Central Manchester Health Authority. Also, the damage that are caused to the plaintiff should be because of the acts of the defendant directly and must not be because of some remote cause and is discussed in Carroll v Fearon.
However, at times the loss that is caused to the plaintiff is not because of the negligence of the defendant alone and the plaintiff was also involved and it is also because of her actions that injury is caused to herself. In such situation, the defendant can raise the defense of contributory negligence and thus reduce is liability proportionally and is held in Astley v Austrust Limited.
Now, the law is applied. 
The facts reveal that Charlene is a Part time Yoga instructor who takes classes on Tuesday and Thursday (with 25 students) nights and hold a Certificate IV from the Australian Yoga Institute, but, he is employed as physical education teacher.  The building in which the classes are conducted has polished hardwood floor with timber construction. The number of students is kept limited considering the capacity of the hall and that few students faced injuries and sprains when there were 35 students.
Hot Herbal tea and hot towels are provided. A large urn and steamer was placed at the side of the wall.
It is at this stage it is submitted that Charlene has placed hot large urn and steamer next to the wall where the classes are held. Charleen is under duty of care to provide protection to the students from such large urn and steamer because:

The students and Charleen are neighbours of each other. This is because any act which is carried out by Charlene within the yoga class will have direct impact upon her students. They are closely associated with each other;
That Charlene can reasonably foresee that if by chance the large urn and steamer with come in contact with the students then they might face injuries from the same considering the fact that the floor of the building is very slippery. Thus, the impact is foreseeable.

So, in such situation, Charlene is imposed with the duty of care in law.
But, this duty is breached by Charlene.
The duty is violated because of the following reasons:

She used imported socks with rippled rubber soles and is of cheap quality.
She carried out the Thursday class with 45 students due to the cancellation of the Tuesday night. She is aware that if students with more than 25 are incorporated in a class then there are chances of injuries and sprains. Considering the fact, she still carried out the class with 45 students. The level of care that is expected from her is not carried out adequate.  
Charlene insisted that socks must be worn by each student but she did not disclose the reason for the same that is they don’t slip and get themself hurt. Thus, the standard of care is not taken.

Thus, there is a complete breach on the part of Charleen.
Because of breach of duty of care, injuries are sustained by Skye. Skye when came for the class could not occupy her usual positing and stood at a very small space which is very close to tea and towel table. When Charleen started the session her foot skidded with the table and the steamer and urn fall on her and injuring her badly. She was hospitalized for two weeks and could not work for eight weeks.
Thus, because of the breach of duty of care by Charleen severe injuries are sustained by Skye.
Thus, all the ingredients that are required to prove negligence are present, that is, Charleen owns duty of care which is breached by her resulting in hampering Skye and incurring injuries upon her.
However, Charleen can take the defense of contributory negligence in order to protest her interest and to reduce her liability. She can prove that:

When Skye came for the yoga class, he was under the influence of wine as she has she has consumed three glasses of wine. This act resulted in unbalancing Skye and her fall
Skye did not wear socks which were especially instructed to him by Charlene and which has made the floor slippery for her which has resulted in her fall. She was the only student who was not warning the socks.

Thus, though Charleen was negligent in her actions but the acts of Skye also contributed to her own loss as she was also negligent on her part. Thus, Charlene can reduce her liability proportionally and will only liable to pay for the losses that are caused to Skye because of Charleen fault.
Christian, Witting, ‘TORT LAW, POLICY AND THE HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA’ (Melbourne University Law Review 569, 2007).
Case laws
Astley v Austrust Limited (2000).
Blake v Galloway (2004).
Carroll v Fearon (1999).
Donoghue v Stevenson (1932).
Gates v McKenna (1998).
Graham Barclay Oysters Pty Ltd v Ryan (2002).
Sullivan v Moody (2001).
Tame v New South Wales (2002).
Wiszniewski v Central Manchester Health Authority (1998).
Online Material
Julie, C, Australian Contract Law (2013) https://www.australiancontractlaw.com/cases/astley.html.
Moles, Robert, ‘Networked Knowledge – Law Reports’ (1998) https://netk.net.au/Tort/Case1.asp.
Souper, M, ‘Sixth Law Form’ (2008) .

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