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Independent.ie

Thursday 19 October 2017

Hillwalker judgement will 'ease the concerns of farmers'

Landscape of Wicklow Mountains, Ireland
Landscape of Wicklow Mountains, Ireland
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Today's judgement overturning the €40,000 damages awarded to a hill walker, is an important recognition from a landowner’s perspective according to farming organisations. 

IFA Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne said the judgement should "help to ease the concerns of farmers".

He said that while the judgment relates to property owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), it also has relevance for private land owners, mainly farmers, where hill walkers ramble off designated routes.

“Public liability insurance cover is provided to private landowners who permit waymarked walking trails to be developed across their land. The commitment in the Programme for Government to increase funding to €4m and bring in an additional 2,000 farmers must now be acted upon.”

ICMSA President, John Comer, said that the decision represented “a very welcome application of reality and responsibility” to what was in danger of becoming a chaotic situation that stripped landowners of all protection while absolving walkers of any responsibilities."

Today, the High Court overturned a Circuit Court decision to award a hillwalker €40k for injuries she sustained after she tripped and fell on a boardwalk on the Wicklow Way.

In his judgment today, Mr Justice Michael White said he was satisfied to dismiss a damages claim by Teresa Wall.

She had claimed she tripped and fell after her foot had snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that made up a boardwalk just below the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood.

As a result she sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who placed the boardwalk on the lands. Last year, at Dublin Circuit Court judge Jacqueline Linnane found the NWPS was negligent and was ordered to pay Mrs Wall €40,000 damages.

The NPWS, who denied negligence, appealed that ruling to the High Court.

Ruling on that appeal today Mr Justice White said Mrs Wall was "a genuine person" who had suffered injuries that had greatly affected her "active lifestyle". 

However, he said when considering "the mechanism of her fall" the judge found there was "high degree of negligence on Mrs Wall's part in that she was not looking at the surface of the boardwalk when she fell."

Mr Justice White added the case raised a number of complex legal issues. After considering all the points raised he was satisfied that the NWPS was not negligent and said he was allowing the NPWS's appeal.

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