Ireland - Supreme Court Judgement

Supreme Court Weir-Rodgers v S F Trust Ltd. [2005]

This case was an appeal to the Supreme Court against a previous judgement where the S F Trust, a company formed by the Franciscan Order, was found to be in breach of the duty of care under Section 4 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, 1995. The claimant had been sitting down with some friends on land owned by the Franciscan Order, close to the edge of the cliff at Rossnowlagh, Co. Donegal, a popular beach and surfing destination. When she stood up, she lost her footing and fell down the edge of the cliff. She suffered multiple fractures to various parts of her body. In her claim, it was suggested that the area should have been fenced so as to prevent anyone entering into it and additionally or alternatively that there should have been a warning notice.

The Judge indicated that wherever there is a cliff edge, it is to be reasonably expected that there may be parts more dangerous than others. He further indicated that a person sitting down near a cliff must be prepared for oddities in the cliff structure or in the structure of the ground adjacent to the cliff and he/she assumes the inherent risks associated therewith. There could of course, be something quite exceptionally unusual and dangerous in a state of a particular piece of ground which would impose a duty on the occupier, the effect of which would be that if he did not put up a warning notice he would be treated as having reckless disregard. He found that this was not the case in this claim. He concluded that there was no liability on the part of the appellant (SF Trust) in this case and he set aside the original High Court judgement and dismissed the action. Costs in the region of €1 million were awarded to the appellant.

Comment

Although in his judgement Mr Justice Geoghegan noted the differences between English and Irish Occupiers Liability legislation, he nevertheless referred to the Brereton Heath Country Park case (Tomlinson v. Congleton Borough Council) and its relevance to common sense expectations of those engaged in outdoor activities. He also referred to Stevenson v. Corporation of Glasgow, which ruled against the necessity, generally, to fence rivers to prevent people falling in. His full judgement can be read here.

The Department of Environment, Community & Local Government has produced a useful guide, Recreation in the Irish Countryside – Property Rights, Obligations and Responsibilities that sets the Weir-Rodgers v. S F Trust case in a wider context. You can see the leaflet here: Access__Liability_Leaflet_2013.pdf

Weir-Rodgers v. S F Trust Ltd [2005] IESC 2

This case law entry was written by Ken Dodd and was published in April 2014

This website entry was last updated on 28 April, 2014

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