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Case law: Occupiers not liable for injured trespassers, even though injuries foreseeable, because property was properly maintained

Occupiers should carry out regular risk assessments to identify reasonably foreseeable activities on their properties - even unlawful activities such as trespass - and carry out inspections and maintenance to ensure there are no defects that could breach their duties to trespassers.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - November 2015

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A group of youngsters had trespassed on a school roof for a long period during a weekend. One boy climbed a fence on the upper roof separating a flat section from a pitched section of roof. He jumped down, choosing to land on a glass skylight which broke. He fell through and was seriously injured, and claimed the Council was liable as an occupier of the premises.

Occupiers' liability law says an occupier can be liable to trespassers if there is 'any risk of their suffering injury on the premises by reason of any danger due to the state of the premises or to things done or omitted to be done on them'.

The High Court ruled it was reasonably foreseeable that youngsters might climb on the roof, and could access the upper roof where the skylights were. It also found that the fence was a natural point for jumping down onto the relevant part of the roof. It also criticised the school's risk assessments and procedures in relation to trespassers.

Generally, however, it found that the state of the roof was satisfactory – it was not of itself a dangerous place. The skylights were not defective, and it was clear from looking at them that they were not meant to be walked on, let alone jumped on. However, the boy had deliberately jumped onto one of the skylights, mistakenly judging that it would hold his weight.

The boy's injuries were therefore the consequence of his own actions. The outcome could have been different if the skylights had not been obvious, or they had been defective in some way.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Occupiers should carry out regular risk assessments to identify reasonably foreseeable activities on their properties - even unlawful activities such as trespass - and carry out inspections and maintenance to ensure there are no defects that could breach their duties to trespassers.

Case law: Buckett v Staffordshire County Council, Case no 3SO90263

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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