Advice: Are farmers liable if walkers or trespassers get injured on their land?
Q I am a farmer in Mayo with most of my land located in hill and upland areas. After the recent case in the High Court - where the judge overturned the award of compensation to a hillwalker - I am now confused as to what my duty is to hillwalkers and trespassers. Do I no longer owe a duty of care as a result of the court case?
A. The recent High Court ruling in the case of a hillwalker who brought a legal case against Wicklow County Council has generated a lot of interest among farmers with hill land particularly in scenic areas.
The hillwalker was injured in a trip and fall as a result of her foot snagging in one of the railway sleepers that makes up the boardwalk on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood,
Prior to the High Court decision the injured person had been awarded €40,000 in damages.
Duty of Care
The law in this area created a category of persons called the "recreational user". This defined as an entrant who - with or without the occupiers' permission - is present on a premises without having paid a charge, for the purpose of engaging in a recreational activity. Persons such as hillwalkers would fall into this category. These persons are treated in the same manner as trespassers.
All that is required of the landowner in respect of these persons is that the landowner does not injure them intentionally or act with reckless disregard for them.
The question that causes most confusion for landowners is - What is 'reckless disregard'?