Is the occupier always liable?

What steps must an occupier take to ensure the safety of visitors?

Judge Jacqueline Linnane, sitting at the Northern Circuit Civil Court in Cavan, recently commended the ‘unbelievable’ level of care exhibited by the GAA. 

The Plaintiff Dublin fan was amongst 16,000 spectators at Kingspan Brefni to see Cavan take on Dublin in February 2017. He injured his back and shoulder when he fell on steps which described as ‘dangerously wet and slippery’ due to overnight rain coupled with the paint finish. Expert evidence suggested that the lack of a handrail on the left-hand side of the steps may have been a contributing factor in his fall.

The Court heard that the stadium, with its 42,000 concrete steps, had been refurbished in 1997. A safety audit in 2012 did not identify any issue regarding the lack of a handrail on the left-hand side of the steps. There was a handrail on the right-hand side. No other incidents had been reported going back as far as 1997.  

Dismissing the claim, Judge Linnane observed:

People are far too litigious. There is an expectation that owners of premises have to go to extreme lengths to try and prevent falls.

The Plaintiff was ordered to pays the Defendant’s legal costs.

This case is reflective of a changing tide in insurance litigation in Ireland, highlighted not least by the plight of the (now former) ‘swing-gate’ TD, Maria Bailey. Where there was once perhaps a presumption of compensation there now seems to be a tendency to go back to basics and adopt a ‘common-sense’ approach.

By the way, Dublin won (Cavan 0-11 Dublin 0-18).

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