Reform of duty-of-care legislation seeks to strike the right balance when considering an Occupier’s Liability

The Minister for Justice has now received Government approval to reform duty of care legislation. Following a review of existing legislation in this jurisdiction and abroad, it appears major changes are on the way for the Occupiers Liability Act, 1995 which will be seen to be a key factor in reducing insurance costs for the economy and communities.

The proposed reform will include “voluntary assumption of risk” under Head 5 of 1995 Act. The proposed reform contains 4 key developments:-

• Inserting into primary law a number of recent court decisions which rebalance the duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users such as the Court of Appeal ruling in Byrne -v- Ardenheath Company Limited [2017] IECA 293.
• A change in the standard to clarify that when the occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard for a visitor or customer, it is the standard of “reckless disregard” rather than the “reasonable grounds” which should apply in relation to any consideration of liability.
• Limits to the circumstances in which a Court can impose liability on the occupier of a premises where a person has entered onto the premises for the purpose of committing an offence; and
• Allowing for a broader range of scenarios where it can be shown that a visitor or customer has voluntarily assumed a risk resulting in harm.

The proposed amendments will seek to strike a fairer and more reasonable balance between the steps an owner or operator of a premises must take to keep their customers and visitors safe, and what individuals themselves can be expected to take responsibility for when entering a business, club or community building.

The proposed legislation will be placed before the Oireachtas for enactment as part of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2022.

If you would like further information in relation to any of the above, please contact Ciara Lehane, Associate Solicitor by email to clehane@jwod.ie or call 021-7300200.