The Occupiers Liability Act 1995 (the Act) is the cornerstone for any action relating to recovery of damages for injuries sustained on land or property owned or occupied by someone else. In December 2020, the Irish Government published a 66-step action plan to combat ever-increasing insurance premiums and claims against the landscape of Ireland's perceived 'claim culture'.
In endeavouring to rebalance the scales, which historically favoured the visitor/ recreational user and trespasser, in July 2023 amendments to the Act were introduced by Part 6 of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023, including:
- The duty of care owed by an owner/ occupier has been adjusted from that of 'reasonable grounds' to one which the visitor/ recreational user must demonstrate that the owner/ occupier acted with 'reckless disregard', imposing a higher burden of proof on the plaintiff.
- A new requirement for the court to tale into account certain matters in order to determine the extent of the duty of care owed to visitors, including the probability of certain dangers and risks taking place and the practicalities involved in mitigating them, which will streamline the approach taken by the courts in assessing each case.
- Liability is reduced for the owner/ occupier where it can be shown that the visitor/ recreational user voluntarily assumed risk, in circumstances where they are capable of comprehending the nature and extent of those risks, and account will be taken of the words or conduct of the visitor/ recreational user.
- The ability of the court to impose liability on an owner/occupier where a person enters onto a premises to commit an offence (or attempt to commit an offence) has been lessened – liability may only now be imposed in exceptional circumstances, with court consideration given to the nature of the offence committed and the extent of the recklessness involved.
It may take some time before the effects of the amendments are reflected in insurance premia of stakeholders such as business owners and event organisers who have largely fallen victim to growing claims and related insurance costs.
For more information, please contact Barry Cahir or your usual contact in Beauchamps.