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Occupiers Liability

Occupiers Liability

What is it?
The duty you hold to a visitor or trespasser on your premises.

Who is an occupier?
An occupier is somebody who is in control of the premises. [Wheat v Lacon]A manager rather than owner of a hotel was held responsible for the damage on the premises as he was the 'control' of the premises. . There can be more than one occupier. [Collier v Anglican Water]The defendant tripped on a loose slab. The premises were owned by the council, but maintained by Anglican water. Both defendants were held to be liable..

What are premises?
Premises can include buildings, land and even vehicles. [Jolley v Sutton LBC]Two children jacked up a boat that they tried to repair, the boat fell on them and injured them. The boat was considered to be premises. .

If someone is a Visitor, this case is dealt with by statute in the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.
If someone is a Trespasser, this case is dealt with by the Occupiers Liability Act 1984.

Who is a visitor?
Somebody who is invited on to the premises, either implied or explicitly. [Lowry v Walker]The defendant unofficially allowed customers to use a shortcut around the back of his land. The plaintiff injured himself and was held to have had implied permission to be there as the defendant had not told him otherwise. . A visitor can become a trespasser if he acts outside the permission for which he was allowed to be there [Thominson v Congleton]The defendant was on a public beach which he was allowed to be there for. However, he stepped outside the purpose he was allowed to be there for when he disobeyed a sign and jumped into a shallow lake. At this point, he became a trespasser. .

Occupiers Liability Act 1957
A visitor is owed a standard duty of care, and reasonable care must be taken to ensure they are kept safe for the purposes of their visit. [The Carlgarth]Lord Atkins said that when you invite somebody into use the stairs, you do not invite them to slide down the banisters. In doing this a visitor would be 'outside the scope' of their permission to be there as a visitor. .  All personal characteristics of a visitor such as blindness need to be taken into consideration [Haley v London Electricity Board].  Visitors can claim for both personal injuries and damage to property received whilst on the premises.

Children visitors should be taken to be less careful than adults. [Jolley v Sutton LBC]Two children jacked up a boat in order to repair it. The council that owned the boat were held to be liable as it was foreseeable that two teenagers would be allured to come and play with the boat. .
Liability for work carried out by independent contractors can be revoked if the defendant ensured they employed competent workers and that their work was sufficiently checked. [Hazeldine v Daw].A lift repair specialist was employed to carry out maintenance on a block of flat's lifts. The lifts broke and it was held that the owner of the premises was not liable as they had been careful in selecting a competent independent contractor. In contrast to this, it has been seen that a school caretaker is not an independent contractor [Woodward v Mayor of Hasting]A caretaker swept the school steps of, but a child slipped on them. The Governors were liable for not accurately checking the work of their employers. .
Skilled workers, in the exercise of their calling, can be taken to know the risks involved in their profession. [Rowles v Nathan].Two chimney sweeps died of carbon monoxide poisoning while sweeping a chimney. It was held that the two of them should both have been aware of the dangers involved in their jobs and should have taken reasonable steps to avoid this.

Occupiers Liability Act 1984
A trespasser must pass the objective ‘reasonable test’.  This is a three part test that the court considers from a ‘reasonable persons’ point of view.
(a) Was/should the defendant have been aware of the danger?
(b) Was/should the defendant have been aware of the likelihood of a trespasser coming into the vicinity of the danger?
(c) Would it have been reasonable for the defendant to take steps to make the danger safe.

Trespassers can only claim for personal injuries received whilst on the premises, not for damage to property.

Defences
Contributory negligence.  Did the claimant sufficiently contribute to his own injuries.  I.e. by failing to brake. [Wattleworth v Goodwood].A driver on a test track day failed to use his brakes when veering off the track and died on impact with the tyres. The court found the defendant not liable, but mentioned that if they had, they would have reduced damages by 20% because of the contributory negligence.
Exclusions/warnings.  A defendant can reasonably exclude himself from liability if warnings are given.  [Ratcliff v McConnell].The defendant jumped in to a shallow pool after drinking. The risk of diving into shallow water was obvious, and there was no duty of care owed.  It was discussed in [Rowles v Nathan]The facts of the case are discussed above and are not explicitly relevant to the obiter stated by Lord Atkins. that an alternative must be given, i.e. ‘Do not use foot bridge, walk around moat instead’ will be sufficient, ‘Do not use foot bridge’ when there is only one bridge to access the premises will not be sufficient.  A place of business cannot exclude liability for death or personal injury (Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 – see Contract Law for more information) Warnings are not required if the danger is alarmingly obvious. [Staples v West Dorset].The defendant slipped on some algae. The risk of slipping was obvious to the average adult, and there was no duty of care owed.
Volenti.  Did the claimant know of and consent to the risk of danger. [Scott v ABP].The defendants owned a piece of land by a railway. Someone attempted to climb on a train and lost his limb. The claimant was held to know of the risk. However, in Scott v ABP, the same thing happened but because of the previous case, the defendants were now aware of the dangers but had failed to fix them, and were therefore liable this time around.

 Want top grades?  Heres our hint:- Occupiers liability covers two types of people – trespassers and visitors.  Visitors can claim for damage received by personal injury and to property; trespassers can only claim for personal injury.
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