Fall from cliff - Whose fault is it?
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But it got me thinking. I wonder if people think that someone else may be to blame?
Cliff edges are by their very nature unstable and crumbly. They are subject to rock falls and can be slippery, particularly when wet. Let's face it, rain is a pretty common occurrence in this country!
The Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 sets out a legal duty of care to people who come onto land by the invitation of the owner or occupier to use the land for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted to be there. The Act states that the occupier must be prepared for children to be less careful than adults. To a lesser degree the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 sets out a duty of care to trespassers. In essence, the occupier must take reasonable care to ensure that their visitor(s) remain reasonably safe while on their land.
However, and what is key here, is that no duty is imposed if a visitor willingly accepts the risk(s). This is known as Volenti non fit injuria - a willing person cannot be injured (in law).
There is a plethora of case law on Occupiers' Liability, but the cases of Cotton v Derbyshire Dales DC (1994) and Staples v West Dorset DC (1995) make for interesting reading. In the first case it was held that the Defendant did not have to warn about dangeous cliffs on a high path. The danger was obvious to visitors. In the second case it was held that the Defendant did not have to warn about algae which might be slippery.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 takes this even further and provides that an occupier of any coastal access land owes even less liability to members of the public than he would to a trespasser under previous legislation. The Act states that a land owner or occupier has no liabiilty for accidents resulting from natural features, which includes unguarded cliffs.
Ultimately it will be for visitors to keep themselves, their children and others in their care safe in what can clearly be a dangerous environment. Don't forget to safeguard your dogs, too! There will be no-one else to blame.... My thoughts go out to this young lad and hope he makes a full recovery.
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