Occupiers’ Liability

May 13, 2016

Occupiers’ liability is liability for injury or damage resulting to persons or goods on any land or other property from dangers due to the state of the property or to things done or omitted to be done, and for purposes connected therewith.

The law in Northern Ireland in respect of occupiers’ liability is governed by the Occupiers’ Liability Act (Northern Ireland) 1957 and The Occupiers’ Liability (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.

Liability in respect of ‘visitors’

The Occupiers’ Liability Act (Northern Ireland) 1957 (“the Act”) requires that an occupier has a common duty of care towards ‘visitors’ on its land.

The Act provides that an occupier shall take reasonable care to see that its visitor will be reasonably safe in using the lands for the purposes for which that visitor is invited or permitted to be there.

In determining whether an occupier has discharged its common duty of care to a visitor, regard should be had to all the circumstances. However, the common duty of care does not impose on an occupier any obligation to a visitor in respect of risks that that visitor has willingly accepted.

Liability in respect of ‘non-visitors’

Article 3 of The Occupiers’ Liability (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 provides for the duty an occupier owes to a person who is not a visitor. It does not place an automatic duty on occupiers to ‘non-visitors’ in respect of any risk of suffering injury on the premises by reason of any danger due to the state of the premises or to things done or omitted to be done on them. However, an occupier owes a duty of care to ‘non-visitors’ if:

  • He is aware of the danger or has reasonable grounds to believe that it exists;
  • He knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the other is in the vicinity of the danger concerned or that he may come into the vicinity of the danger (in either case, whether the other has lawful authority for being in that vicinity or not); and
  • The risk is one against which, in all the circumstances of the case, he may reasonably be expected to offer the other some protection.

Where it is found that an occupier owes a duty of care to a ‘non-visitor’, their duty is to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to see that the non-visitor does not suffer injury on the premises by reason of the danger concerned.

Article 3(5) of The Occupiers’ Liability (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 provides that any duty of care to a ‘non-visitor’ in respect of a risk may, in the appropriate case, be discharged by taking such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances of the case to give warning of the danger concerned or to discourage persons from incurring the risk.

Article 3(6) of the Order provides that no duty is owed to any person in respect of risks willingly accepted by that person.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.