The Occupiers’ Liability Act defines the rights and responsibilities of property owners, tenants, and managers. The act defines “occupier” as a person who is in physical possession of premises, or who has responsibility for and control over the condition of premises and the activities performed there, or who has control over who is allowed to enter the premises. When it comes to legal action, the occupier is whoever was responsible for maintaining safe premises at the time of the accident.
Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, the person or organization defined as the occupier has a duty to ensure the premises are “reasonably safe” for anyone who has permission to use them. Under most circumstances, this does not extend to an injury sustained while taking part in activities with accepted risks. Those engaged in trespassing (as defined by the Trespass Act) or other criminal activities are not entitled to protection under this act. With few other exceptions, if you are injured on someone else’s property you have the option of seeking financial compensation through legal action.
What are Premises?
For purposes of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, “premises” can include just about any land and what’s on it. Private residences and commercial buildings certainly count. So too do portable shelters, stationary trains, vehicles, and aircraft. Ships and vessels, even the water on which they travel, can be considered premises as well when negligence leads to injury or death.
There are many different ways a property owner or manager can be negligent. This includes obvious issues such as poor maintenance, obstructed walkways, and slippery conditions. Other issues include:
- Inadequate lighting
- Missing safety equipment or features
- Negligent security
- Unsecured overhead stock
- General inattentiveness
What is Duty of Care?
The Occupiers’ Liability Act outlines the occupier’s responsibility to maintain its property. An occupier has a duty to take reasonable steps in nearly all circumstances to ensure a property is safe for use by tenants, occupants, and general members of the public. For example, if a building owner or landlord owns or operates the space occupied by a grocery store chain, both the grocery store and building owner have a duty to ensure that workers, customers, and members of the general public are safe while on the premises for any legal reason.
Duty of care refers to the:
- Condition of the premises
- Activities that take place on the premises
- Conduct of third parties operating on the premises
The Occupiers’ Liability Act does not totally absolve occupiers of liability, even when duty of care is not applicable. Occupiers must maintain a safe and hazard-free environment. For instance, the owner of a pool, whose visitors assume risks when swimming, cannot simply ignore all other reasonable safety measures because swimming can be dangerous. Under the law, occupiers cannot deliberately or recklessly cause property occupants harm.
Not every accident that occurs on someone else’s property is the result of negligence—but some are. If you suspect your injury could have been avoided had proper steps been taken by the occupier, discuss your case with one of the lawyers at Stephens & Holman. Thoughtful, attentive, and effective, our lawyers are here to listen, provide honest information about your options, and help you choose the best path forward.