An explanation of the Swedish damages act

I'm a student at a university in Sweden and I broke my arm after slipping outside on a sloped road that hadn't been attended to by the groundskeepers with sand/gravel. From what I recall this was on the first day of heavy snow weather, and due to the road being the main one when entering the campus, the snow had already been compacted from all of the people passing by. During and after the slip, when waiting for an ambulance, I noticed many others slipping and falling near me, particularly around the sloped area of the road — including one of the ambulance personnel who almost fell on me. As far as I understand, the school is responsible for groundskeeping on campus. When I emailed them, warning them about how dangerous the Campus grounds were, I didn't get much of a response which frustrated me. On top of that, my studies have suffered greatly and I'm still struggling with certain aspects of life because of my broken arm. So I'm wondering if there's a way to hold the school, or the grounds owner, responsible for what happened, and ensure that the grounds are kept safe for everyone in the future. Are there any good grounds to start a case against them based on this? Thanks in advance.

Lawline svarar


Thanks for turning to us at Lawline with your question.

The situation, question, and applicable law.

If I understand you correctly you fell and broke your arm on campus due to the groundskeepers not yet taking care of the road. Now you’re wondering if there’s any way to hold them responsible. To answer this, we’ll turn to the Swedish damages acts (Skadeståndslagen).

When are you responsible for damages to a person in Swedish law?

The damages acts’ second chapter prescribes in the first paragraph that a person who causes, either knowingly or by carelessness, damage or harm to another person should compensate that person.

This paragraph also contains certain conditions for compensation to actualize. Among these are:

- There must have been an injury.

- The injury must’ve affected someone other than who caused it.

- There must’ve been a duty not to harm.

- The damage must’ve been caused knowingly or through carelessness.

The first two are obvious, but the third and forth conditions can be a bit tricky, but I will try to give you an overview of them.

What does “a duty not to harm” imply?

This means that the one who caused the harm must have some form of responsibility for the thing that caused it. In other words, he or she must’ve had a duty to keep you safe from harm. For example, in your case the grounds owner is responsible for keeping their grounds safe. If someone gets hurt on their property that is within their responsibility.

The damage must’ve been caused knowingly or through carelessness.

This is the trickiest of the bunch and requires an extensive investigation of all relevant circumstances. As I don’t have all that information, I will give you a quick overview of the situation using what information I have available.

The Swedish supreme court has in the case NJA 1981 s. 683 said that an evaluation of carelessness shall take what counter measures the grounds owner has performed to decrease the risk of an injury into account. However, a grounds owner cannot be forced to perform actions of unreasonable cost or other inconveniences.

To keep the roads on one’s property in order, especially the ones that are used heavily, as well as to place warning signs when there are risks of injury have previously been declared as measures that must be taken by a ground’s owner (see the supreme courts' case NJA 1987 s. 222).

In your case the ground owner seems to have neglected that responsibility. However, you must also consider the time the owner had to perform these actions. If it was the first day of heavy snowfall, perhaps there wasn’t enough time to arrange for the roads to be fixed yet, which would mean that the owner cannot be held responsible.

Overall, the carelessness evaluation requires a lot of information which I don’t have. However, these are some points to go on.

Your situation and my conclusion.

Sadly, I don’t have enough information to give you a straight answer. What I can say is that the grounds owner is responsible for keeping their grounds safe, and if they fail to that they must compensate you. You must also however weigh in the time they had to perform said responsibilities and so on when making these assessments.

For a more in-depth analysis of your situation, I’d advice you to contact a lawyer and provide a more thorough picture of the situation.

I hope this helped and gave you a clearer picture of your situation and possibilities.


Emil Szepesvari BurmanRådgivare
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