Reversal of €40k award welcomed by hillwalkers and landowners

The decision to overturn a ruling awarding a hillwalker €40,000 for injuries she sustained after she tripped and fell on a boardwalk on the Wicklow Way has been welcomed.

In a significant judgement in the High Court concerning the duty of care landowners have in respect of hillwalkers, Mr Justice Michael White said Teresa Wall had contributed to her injuries.

She claimed she tripped and fell after her foot had snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that made up a boardwalk just below the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood on August 6, 2013.

As a result, she sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service, (NPWS) who placed the boardwalk on the lands. Last year, a Dublin Circuit Court judge found the NPWS was negligent and awarded Mrs Wall €40,000 damages.

The NPWS, which denied negligence, appealed that ruling to the High Court.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said the decision is “commonsense”.

“Farmers would be generally willing to allow walkers on their land but the niggling concern about possible compo claims is a real difficulty. The original award of a substantial amount of damages was not helpful so we are pleased with today’s outcome.”

Mr Sherlock praised the NPWS for appealing the award and said people must take responsibility for their own actions when out in the countryside. “Landowners cannot be held accountable for people’s misfortunes while out walking. Farmers are under more than enough stress already from working in a very stressful environment without the added pressure of looking after walkers who enter their property,” he said.

Mountaineering Ireland said the decision provides reassurance to hillwalkers and landowners and reinforces the long-established principle that people engaging in outdoor recreational activities must take responsibility for their own safety.

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