'Farmers should not be worried about hill walkers, regardless of €40,000 claim outcome’

Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers told to no worry about possible claims, in light of last year's court case that awarded €40,000 damages to a hill walker.

Following the circuit court judgment last April Mountaineering Ireland refuted claims from the IFA and ICSA that farmers should be worried about the judgement which awarded a hill walker €40,000 in damages after she injured herself while walking the Wicklow Way.

IFA said that while the judgement relates to property owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, farmers will be very wary of the consequences where hill walkers ramble off designated routes.

However, Mountaineering Ireland’s spokesperson said “This case could not have succeeded had the woman been injured by a fall on rocky ground, rather than a boardwalk.

“This judgement is under Section 4.4 of the Occupiers Liability Act where there is a higher duty of care on the landowner for structures that are provided for use primarily by recreational users.

"That higher level of responsibility does not apply to other structures you would find in a farming environment or features in the natural landscape. Most structures provided for use by recreational users that are on private land, such as stiles, bridges and boardwalks are part of managed trails where there is an insurance policy in place to indemnify landowners."

It went on to say that if a farmer puts in a stile for his/her own convenience and even if it is used by walkers his/her duty of care remains minimal - not to deliberately injure the person or damage their property.

"If an accident was caused due to a deficiency in the stile, then the claimant would find it very difficult to plead a claim because the landowner doesn’t owe them that higher duty of care."

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"The bigger picture here is that the law recognises that people engaged in outdoor recreation activities should be aware of the risk that is involved in what they do, and that they should take responsibility for themselves. This judgment should not be causing worry for farmers around the country.”

The High Court will rule in the coming weeks on an appeal against a decision to award a hill walker €40,000 for injuries from a fall on the Wicklow way in 2013.

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