The introduction of the Court of Appeal has led to the Courts in general taking a harder line against personal injury claimants, making it more difficult to succeed on liability issues. Not only have the Courts reduced the level of compensation awards they have also started to impose stricter standards for personal injury claimants to succeed in their cases.
A recent example of this tougher line was a decision delivered by the High Court in May 2016. In that case the Plaintiff sought damages in respect of an injury to his leg sustained in a slip and fall accident at Citywest Park, Co. Dublin.
The accident happened when the man was attempting to access the Defendant’s premises over a mown landscaped embankment between the public footpath and the Defendant’s car park. The man slipped on dewy grass while making his descent and suffered a significant fracture of his right leg.
Both Defendants were sued as owners and occupiers under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1995. They were also sued for breach of statutory duty under the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Act 2005. Section 15 (3) of the 2005 Act provides….
“……(3) a person to whom this Section applies shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the place of work, the means of access thereto, or egress therefrom, and any article of substance provided for use in the place of work, are safe and without risk to health”.
An occupier’s duty under law is to take reasonable care for the safety of visitors. In this case the Judge held that the Defendant occupiers had met that duty in providing a proper means of access and that the Plaintiff did not suffer his injury as a result of the Defendant’s failure to provide a reasonably safe means of access to their premises.
The Judge held that, as the Plaintiff had strayed from the designated footpath to the entrance, he was aware that there was a safe means to access the premises by using that footpath, and therefore he was the author of his own misfortune and dismissed the claim.
This case, along with a number of other decisions issued by the Court of Appeal in the last twelve months, highlights the fact that to succeed in a personal injury action you have to have strong engineering evidence that the Defendants have breached a duty of care that they owed, and that as a result the Plaintiff suffered injury or damage.