Imagine being in the penalty box just about to score the winning goal in the cup final when the goal post suddenly comes crashing down on your head. After the initial pain of being denied your moment of glory has subsided, you might find yourself asking who is responsible for your injury. Is it the council who own the ground or your football club who rents it from them?
Under the Occupier’s Liability (Scotland) Act 1960, an “occupier” of land has a duty of care towards people on that land. They need to take all “reasonable” steps so that people do not suffer injury or damage. So the occupier must consider any dangers that exist on the property that could cause harm to others. How does this work though in the above scenario? Who is the occupier?
While everything is dependent on the individual facts and circumstances of the case, there are some principles that apply. The Act defines the occupier as “having control of land or other premises”. If the premises are leased, then these duties might be already defined in terms of the lease. However, such provisions in a lease may not mean that the landlord can avoid his obligations altogether. The landlord could still be considered as being “in control of the premises” even if some repairs are usually carried out by the tenant. The landlord and the tenant may both owe duties to people on the premises at the same time.
The duty of care extends only to doing what is “reasonable”. So, in the example of the faulty goalposts, the occupier would have to have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the goalposts were in good repair. This might include regular inspections of the goalposts and repairing any obvious defects such as cracks or rust. If that is done, the occupier is more likely to be able to defend any claim against him, and rest easy in the knowledge that the goals are solid enough to support the winning goal.