The Occupier’ Liability Act 1995 (“the Act”) has been amended by the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023

The Occupier’ Liability Act 1995 (“the Act”) has been amended by the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023, among a range of changes with a view to making the judicial system more efficient. The legislation governs the duty a business owes to a visitor who enters its premises.

Prior to this amendment, the Civil Liability Act 1961 took a pro-visitor approach, and any alleviating of the duty between an occupier and a visitor had to be within a written agreement, putting significant pressure on small and medium-sized business owners who face high insurance premiums, threatening their ability to provide their services. The amendment was proposed in tandem with the Government’s commitment to insurance reform.

Some of the core changes to the Act are:

  • When an occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard, it is the standard of reckless disregard (and not reasonable grounds) that should apply when considering liability.

  • Where a visitor enters a premises with the intent of committing an offence, the liability on an occupier has been limited.

  • Similarly, a broader range of situations has been added where it can be shown that a visitor has voluntarily assumed a risk resulting in harm.

  • The significant duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users has been reviewed and the Act inserts a number of changes based on recent court decisions that balance this duty.

Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD commenced the rolling out of the provisions of the Court and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 with effect from 31 July 2023.

Significant amendments were made to provisions of the Act, which deal with the duty of care, intent to commit an offence and voluntary assumption of risk respectively. The Court of Appeal case Byrne v Ardenhealth [2017] IECA 293 and the High Court decisions in Wall v National Parks and Wildlife Service p2017] IEHC 85 and Mulcahy v Cork County Council [2020] IEHC 547 were considered.

Following the amendment to the Act, the duty of care is to be weighed up with the probability of a danger, injury, severity of the injury, practicality of preventative measures and the social utility of the activity that gives rise to the risk.

With regards to a visitor entering a premises to commit an offence, liability – as a result of the amendment – will not be imposed save for exceptional circumstances, which will rest on the nature of the offence and the extent of recklessness on the part of the occupier. It is expected that this reform will result in fewer cases given the higher imposition of liability on a visitor.

Amendments have also been made in relation to visitors willingly accepting risk, in situations where they are able to understand the nature and extent of the risks and to accept them. This previously required a written acknowledgement, to limit or relieve an occupier from liability.

A court can now look at whether a visitor has accepted risk based on words or conduct without the need for any overt interaction with the occupier of the premises.

For more information, please contact us at reception@vblaw.ie, or your usual contact at Vincent and Beatty LLP.


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