Occupiers' Liability – There’s No Duty to Warn Against the Obvious

BridgeProperty owners owe a legal duty to ensure that their visitors are reasonably safe – but that does not mean that they have to warn against obvious risks. The Court of Appeal made that point in clearing a local authority of liability in respect of a cyclist who was badly injured when he fell off an ornamental bridge.

The man was pushing his bike across the narrow Victorian bridge, which was set in a public park, when he fell over its low parapet onto rocks below.  He suffered grave injuries and sued the council for a seven-figure sum under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957. The council was found 60 per cent liable for the accident by a judge on the basis that the absence of hand rails from the bridge created a foreseeable risk of injury.

In upholding the council’s challenge to that ruling, the Court noted that not every accident has to be someone’s fault. The bridge, which was similar to many others around the country, had been in place since the mid-19th Century but there had been no reports of any similar accidents. Any user of the bridge would have appreciated the need to take care when crossing it and the council was under no duty to warn against the obvious. The standard of care required of the council by the judge had been set too high.

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