07 December, 2017
A Claimant has been forced to discontinue her substantial claim for personal injury in the face of overwhelming evidence in support of a McGeown defence.
The Claimant alleged that she slipped and fell on a slippery substance whilst walking on a footpath between a supermarket and a public car park.
The Defendant argued that it was not liable and sought to rely on the case of McGeown v Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1994). The Defendant invited the Claimant to discontinue her claim.
Nonetheless, the Claimant confirmed her intention to proceed with the claim and the Defendant prepared detailed and compelling witness statements to prove that the path had been used as a right of way by members of the public for over 20 years. The Claimant was not a lawful visitor under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 because she was exercising a public right of way and the slippery substance, likely to be algae was a naturally occurring substance which had not been caused or created by the Defendant. Following exchange of witness evidence the Claimant promptly discontinued her claim.
This was an excellent result for the local authority. This case demonstrates the value of pleading McGeown as a complete defence to a claim. To rely on the case of McGeown v Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1994) the Defendant must be able to establish 20 years of continuous unfettered use by the public and the absence of any negligent misfeasance (i.e. a positive wrong action).