Occupiers’ liability
Occupiers’ liability

The following Property guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Occupiers’ liability
  • Occupiers' Liability Act 1957
  • Who is an ‘occupier’?
  • Can OLA 1957 liability be excluded?
  • Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984
  • Can OLA 1984 liability be excluded?

Occupiers' Liability Act 1957

Under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 (OLA 1957), an occupier of property owes a common law duty of care to all his visitors in respect of dangers due to the state of the premises or to things done or omitted to be done on them. He must take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

In Esdale, the Court of Appeal held that the test for compliance is objective. The standards of safety which a council set itself as a matter of policy were not determinative.

The starting point for the existence of a duty of care is usually the threefold Caparo test, where:

  1. the harm which occurred must be a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant's conduct

  2. a sufficient relationship of proximity or neighbourhood exists between the alleged wrongdoer and the person who has suffered damage

  3. it is fair, just and reasonable to impose liability

The judgment in Edwards makes it clear that just because a danger exists, it doesn’t mean that a duty of care, under OLA 1957, automatically arises. Remoteness of risk is key and that there is no duty to protect or warn against obvious dangers—the visitor must take some responsibility. As the Court of Appeal stated ‘an occupier is not an insurer against injuries’.

The degree of risk is