€40,000 award to hiker who tripped rejected on appeal
Hillwalking groups welcomed the overturning of a €40,000 award made to a woman who sued after injuring herself while hiking in the Wicklow mountains.
High Court judge Mr Justice Michael White overturned a decision by the Dublin Circuit Court which found that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was negligent for not maintaining a boardwalk in the Wicklow Way. He also dismissed Teresa Wall's claim for €40,000 in damages.
Mr Justice White said Ms Wall was "a genuine person" who had suffered injuries that affected her "active lifestyle".
However, when considering "the mechanism of her fall" the judge found there was a "high degree of negligence on Mrs Wall's part in that she was not looking at the surface of the boardwalk when she fell".
The decision has significant implications for Ireland's national parks and for the future of the Wicklow Way itself.
Had the Circuit Court's decision been upheld, there were fears that private landowners would withdraw their consent to allow walkers on their property out of fear of liability.
Last night Mountaineering Ireland, representing 12,000 hillwalkers and 185 registered clubs, welcomed the decision.
"The judgment will provide reassurance to hillwalkers and to many landowners, public and private, who permit access to their land," the association said.
"It reinforces the long-established principle that people engaging in outdoor recreational activities must take responsibility for their own safety."
Keep Ireland Open, a lobby group campaigning for greater public access to rural areas, also expressed relief at the ruling.
"If the NPWS had lost this case, it would have been used by landowners as yet another excuse to restrict Ireland's already dismal level of public access to the countryside," said spokesman Michael Carroll.
The court heard that Ms Wall, from Swords, Co Dublin had tripped and fallen when her foot got snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers. The accident occurred in broad daylight on August 6, 2013, on the boardwalk linking the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood.
Mr Justice White adjourned the matter for a fortnight to allow both parties to consider his decision before making any application over legal costs.