Occupiers’ liability; no duty to warn of obvious risks

This recent judgment from the Court of Appeal helps clarify the law on occupiers’ liability.

The Claimant was injured when he fell off a narrow bridge in a park while pushing his bike. There were no rails or warning signs near the bridge.

The Court held that whilst it was possible for the bridge to constitute a ‘danger’, this didn’t trigger a duty to install railings or warning signs. There were two main reasons given: Firstly, there had been no previous accidents of any kind and as such the risk was remote. Secondly, there was no duty to warn of ‘obvious’ risks.  This was in line with the decision in Staples v West Dorset [1995]) The court commented, however, that this might be different for more vulnerable visitors, such as children.

The lessons? To avoid disputes on their property, occupiers should consider the risk of injuries to people on their property, including visitors and trespassers. They may need to make alterations or provide appropriate warning signs if there reasonably likely risks of injury, and give special consideration to vulnerable people such as children.

The case? Edwards v London Borough of Sutton [2016] EWCA Civ 1005

In this case, the Court said it would have been disproportionate, given the degree of risk of injury, to expect the occupier to carry out alterations to an historic bridge. Nor should the occupier have been required to put up signage given that what the signs would have said – that the cyclist should take special care when pushing his bike over a narrow bridge – would have been obvious to the cyclist anyway. The Court said there is no duty to warn of the obvious.