High Court challenge to €40k injury award to hillwalker

The €40,000 award of damages to hill walker Teresa Wall following a fall on the Wicklow Way is to be challenged in the High Court. Appeal papers are to be lodged within a matter of days, it was confirmed yesterday.

Legal argument will apply mainly to Section 4 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 and in particular whether, under the section, there was a failure on the part of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to take reasonable care to maintain a boardwalk in a safe condition.

Ms Wall, a 59-year-old from Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin, injured her knee when she fell on a boardwalk of partially rotten railway sleepers on August 6, 2013. She claimed she had been directed by signs to walk on the sleepers.

Her barrister, David McParland, argued that the boardwalk constituted a structure under the act, which imposed a far higher duty of care in the maintenance and management of it. The act provided that, in respect of a danger existing on a premises, the occupier owed a recreational user or trespasser a duty not to intentionally injure them or damage their property and not act with reckless disregard for the person or their property.

Yesterday, Kerry county councillors and a farmers’ representative body added to criticism of the ruling.

Elected representatives attending yesterday’s meeting of Kerry County Council said the decision would have “disastrous” consequences for Kerry, where tourism accounted for one in five jobs and where hillwalking was a huge activity.

Sleepers currently aid walkers on Torc Mountain near Killarney, which is under the remit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Work is also under way on providing stone paths on Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain, which is privately owned.

“This ruling, if allowed stand, will affect Kerry more than any other county because of its built structures like the sleepers on Torc. You can’t describe the result of what effect it would have,” said Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Culloty, himself a keen hillwalker.

Killarney-based councillor Michael Gleeson said he had deep concerns about the ruling. “If we are going to go down that track, it would be a disaster,” he said.

Meanwhile, Seamus Sherlock, rural development chairman with the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association, said: “This sends out a clear message to farmers and landowners that hill walkers can claim successfully for injuries sustained when walking. While the claim related to a structure put in place by the NPWS, there will now be a growing fear that this will embolden others to try their luck in the courts.

“Hill walking, by its nature, involves a small degree of risk and those who participate in this activity should be prepared to accept that risk themselves. It is totally unacceptable that a farmer or landowner would be at risk of finding themselves facing a lawsuit through no fault of their own.”


Keep chomping on those carrots so your eyes will be in perfect working order for that prolonged annual gaze through the keyhole as Home of the Year returns for a sixth series next week.Home of the Year offers a good excuse for a bit of good-natured interiors voyeurism

They differ from the more prevalent oranges we eat because their flesh, and often the skin, is crimson or deep red in colour.Michelle Darmody: The best time of year to buy blood oranges

The annual Members Exhibition now underway at the Lavit Gallery in Cork features 92 works from 72 artists.The exhibition runs until March 7.Under the hammer: Your guide to upcoming auctions

There’s an oriental theme at the James Adam ‘At Home’ auction in Dublin, says Des O’SullivanAuctions: Sale full of eastern promise

More From The Irish Examiner