Law of Tort

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4.0 INTRODUCTION
Occupiers' liability generally refers to the duty owed by land owners to those who come onto their land. However, the duty imposed on land owners can extend beyond simple land ownership and in some instances the landowners may transfer the duty to others, hence the term occupier rather than owner. The term occupier itself is misleading since physical occupation is not necessary for liability to arise. Occupiers' liability is perhaps a distinct form of negligence in that there must be a duty of care and breach of duty, causing damage. The rules of remoteness apply to occupiers liability in the exact same way that they apply to negligence claims. Liability can arise on occupiers for omissions since their relationship gives rise to duty to take action to ensure the reasonable safety of visitors. The law relating to occupiers' liability originated in common law but is now contained in two major pieces of legislation:  

Occupiers Liability Act 1957  - which imposes an obligation on occupiers with regard to 'lawful visitors' Occupiers Liability Act 1984 - which imposes liability on occupiers with regard to persons other than 'his visitors'.  

Different levels of protection are expected under the two pieces of legislation with a higher level of protection afforded to lawful visitors. NB: Lawful visitors are owed the duty set out in the 1957 Act; non-lawful visitors are owed the duty set out in the 1984 Act. It is for the claimant to prove that he is a lawful visitor and therefore entitled to the more favorable duties in the earlier Act   

4.1 Occupiers( who is an occupier)
At common law (and under the statute occupation is based on control and not necessarily on any title to or property interest in the land. Both the Occupiers Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 impose an obligation on occupiers rather than land owners. The question of whether a particular person is an occupier is a question of fact and depends on the degree of control exercised. The test applied is one of 'occupational control' and there may be more than one occupier of the same premises:   

In Wheat v E Lacon & Co Ltd [1966] AC 522- House of Lords

The claimant and her family stayed at a public house, The Golfer’s Arms in Great Yarmouth, for a holiday. Unfortunately her husband died when he fell down the stairs and hit his head. The stairs were steep and narrow. The handrail stopped two steps from the bottom of the stairs and there was no bulb in the light. The claimant brought an action under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 against the Brewery company, Lacon, which owned the freehold of The Golfer’s Arms and against the Managers of the Pub, Mr. & Mrs. Richardson, who occupied the pub as a licensee.

Held: Both the Richardson’s and Lacon were occupiers for the purposes of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and therefore both owed the common duty of care. It is possible to have more than one occupier. The question of whether a particular person is an occupier under the Act is whether they have occupational control. Lacon had only granted a license to the Richardson’s and had retained the right to repair which gave them a sufficient degree of control. There is no requirement of physical occupation. However, it was found that Lacon was not in breach of duty since the provision of light bulbs would have been part of the day to day management duties of the Richardson’s. Since the Richardson’s were not party to the appeal the claimant’s action failed.

Lord Denning: “wherever a person has a sufficient degree of control over premises that he ought to realize that any failure on his part to use care may result in injury to a person coming lawfully there, then he is an " occupier " and the person coming lawfully there is his " visitor ": and the " occupier " is under a duty to his " visitor " to use reasonable care. In order to be an “occupier “it is not necessary for a person to have entire control over the premises. He need not have exclusive...
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