Occupiers’ Liability: Driver v Dover Roman Painted House3

The court dismissed the claim brought by the claimant who had injured herself after falling from a wall whilst drunk. She had been a trespasser and the premises had not been inherently dangerous; the wall was three-feet high and adequately lit.

The claimant claimed damages after suffering head injuries after falling off a wall. The accident site was a Roman house surrounded by a moat. The moat area sloped 4 meters below ground level and was surrounded by the three-foot wall from which the claimant had fallen. There were shrubs and trees growing in the moat.

The claimant said that she had no memory of how she had fallen. Her friend gave evidence  that although they had been visiting pubs prior to the accident they had only had a few drinks. She said that the claimant had become agitated because she needed to go to the toilet but had calmed down and that they had been waiting by the wall for a taxi when the claimant fell. The claimant submitted that the defendant and/or the local authority had failed in their duty of care under the Occupiers’ Liability Act and that the moat was a trap because she could not see the slope behind the wall and the presence of trees and shrubs had hidden the drop. She alleged that the wall should have been higher or should have been better lit. The defendant and the local authority submitted that the claimant had failed to take care of her own safety and had been drunk.

The claimant’s claim was dismissed. The evidence pointed to the conclusion that the claimant had been attempting to relieve herself on the other side of the wall at the time of the fall and had drunk significantly more than her friend had suggested. The defendant had erected the wall to be three feet high. This was not instinctively low. It had proven to be a satisfactory barrier since it had been built in the 1970s; there had been no other adverse incidents, no complaints and no injuries since then, with an estimated 650,000 people visiting the site during that time. The presence of the moat was not a hidden danger. There were lights nearby, the trees in the moat were 11 meters above the car park level and the drop should have been recognised.