The Court of Appeal has ruled that Plymouth City Council was not liable for the serious injuries sustained by a young man who fell 5 metres onto a concrete surface after dashing through a gap in some bushes at night in order to avoid paying a taxi fare.
Jonathan Harvey had been out drinking with friends and had consumed up to eight pints of beer prior to being dropped off by a taxi outside a Tesco store in Plymouth. After paying what they owed to the driver, he and a friend ran away from the taxi in order to make another member of the group pay his share.
Mr Harvey ran towards the bushes. In the dark, he did not see the 5-metre drop behind a badly maintained fence and he fell down onto the car park beneath.
The land from which Mr Harvey fell was owned by Plymouth City Council and it was responsible for maintaining the fence. He sued the Council for failing to maintain the fence, alleging that this constituted a breach of its duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.
The High Court found the Council 25 per cent liable for the accident. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Harvey was not a visitor to the land for the purposes of the Act and thus no compensation was due. At issue was whether the Council was deemed to have given implicit permission for his activities.
The decision will be greeted with relief by landowners of open spaces used by the public as persons injured on the property will need to show an implied licence for the activities they carry out on the land.
It is thought that this will be an insuperable obstacle for many claimants.