Occupiers’ liability

The following Property Disputes practice 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

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.

The test for liability under OLA 1957 is:

  1. the claimant must be a visitor at the material time

  2. the defendants must be occupiers

  3. the defendant must have breached the statutory duty, ‘to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case [was] reasonable to see that [the claimant would be] reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupiers to be there’

  4. the breach must have caused the claimant actionable injury

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

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