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Occupier's Liability

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Introduction

Occupier's Liability Objective The objective of this document is to outline the obligations of the RSPB, as occupier of property. The obligations are set out in two Occupier's Liability Acts 1957 and 1984, and are owed to persons who enter RSPB property either as licensed visitors, or as unlicensed trespassers. The document does not purport to cover every particular situation and those in any doubt should consult Legal and Compliance as to secure their own position. Overview The RSPB owns large quantities of real estate, including many public reserves. It also owns many offices to which employees have access. As Occupier, the RSPB owes a duty of care to any persons who use RSPB land, irrespective of authorisation. Legal Analysis RSPB is the Occupier for the purposes of both the "Occupier's Liability Act 1957" and "Occupier's Liability Act 1984." This is because the RSPB as an organisation has immediate supervision and control and the power of permitting or prohibiting the entry of persons onto its land. Thus, the Law imposes equitable liability upon the RSPB for its defective premises and death or personal injury (and loss to property) that incurred by persons upon its land This responsibility upon the RSPB to secure the welfare of persons upon its land, is affected by the status of such persons. Indeed, the duty owed to lawful visitors is of a higher standard than the duty owed to unlawful trespassers. ...read more.

Middle

As per Lord Denning, any warning sign to invited visitors, must if practicable, offer alternatives. Thus, the disclaimer which offers an alternative bridge to be found at point X, would secure the safety of the visitors, and limit the liability of the Occupier upon the excluded bridge. In summery, we see that the duty of care owed by the RSPB to invited visitors is subjective, so that the RSPB must secure the welfare of visitors with specific regard to their needs; whether they be children, the disabled or elderly. Any attempt to limit this liability is qualified by the necessity to offer alternatives as to ensure safety. Thus, a sign warning of dangerous machinery upon a popular route of a reserve, must offer a safer route as outlined, perhaps, on a map of the reserve. Duty Of Care to Uninvited Entrants: Trespassers It is a popular belief that those who enter premises without authority should enter so at their own risk. Indeed, this was the historical common law position. Trespassers were owed no duty of care by the Occupier, so that a trespasser who was injured by dangerous implements negligently left on land, had no remedy. However, following cases where young children were killed upon premises, the law tried to imply 'constructive licenses' for trespassers, so that an Occupier would have impliedly granted a license to a trespasser, if the Occupier knew of the trespasser's presence, but did nothing to prohibit such. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is because the average person on an average day would take head of the sign. However, arguably, this sign would be insufficient for an adult who was a licensed visitor and without seeing, for example, a larger sign with flashing lights highlighting the danger, fell down the well. This is because, under the 1957 Act, the sign must not only warn the licensed entrant of the danger, but must secure his safety. The sign for the licensed visitor failed to do this. However, it was sufficient for the blind child who was trespassing. Thus, we see that a duty of care is owed to both licensed visitors and trespassers. However, the standard of care owed differentiates. The standard for an invited person is higher as the RSPB undertakes to secure his welfare, the standard for a trespasser is objective and thus lower, as the trespasser is deemed to be an average person, and no regard is given to the idiosyncrasies of the trespasser: age, mental health. Evaluation The RSPB must take all reasonable measures to ensure its grounds are reasonably safe and that any disclaimers of safety offer greater protection to the visitor rather than just highlighting the risk. However, for trespassers, there must still be no overtly dangerous objects/circumstances upon RSPB property, though regard need not be given to particular characteristics of trespassers. Moreover, disclaimers ought to warn of the dangers but not necessarily offer any alternatives. Paul Shakesby LLB ...read more.

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