The High Court has handed down a very significant ruling for the Irish cycling community.
The High Court has overturned an award of €40,000 made to a hill walker for injuries she sustained after falling on the Wicklow Way.
The ruling comes as a great relief to the Irish off-road cycling community and others who use public lands for recreation because the legal precedent it would have created.
It could have severely affected access to lands as landowners concerned they would be liable for minor accidents would seek to keep people way.
It was also felt any agencies of the State or voluntary organisations seeking to make changes to lands or trails could be held liable for minor accidents.
The hill walker, Teresa Wall, said she had fallen after her foot got caught in a hole on old railway sleepers used to construct a walkway on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood, Co Wicklow.
She had sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service as it was they who placed the sleepers. Last year the Circuit Court found the service negligent and ordered it to pay Ms Wall €40,000.
However, the High Court has today overturned that award, though it accepted Ms Wall was a “genuine person” whose active lifestyle had been effected by the fall.
Mr Justice Michael White said when there was “high degree of negligence” on Ms Wall’s part because “she was not looking at the surface of the boardwalk when she fell.”
He adjourned the case for two weeks to all Ms Wall and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to consider the ruling.
The Irish Farmers’ Association welcomed the judgement overturning the award for the fall in 2013.
“The finding that an onus exists on the walker to have a duty of care is an important recognition from a landowner’s perspective. This should help to ease the concerns of farmers,” said IFA hill farmers chairperson Pat Dunne
“Public liability insurance cover is provided to private landowners who permit waymarked walking trails to be developed across their land. The commitment in the Programme for Government to increase funding to €4m and bring in an additional 2,000 farmers must now be acted upon.
“While the judgment relates to property owned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it also has relevance for private land owners, mainly farmers, where hill walkers ramble off designated routes.”