Public footpaths are public due to the fact that they have been taken in charge by the local authority.
There has been much caselaw in Ireland on whether a local authority is liable for any injury or damage arising from their failure to exercise a statutory power and this is described as “non-feasance”. It has been declared by the courts, that the public authority is not accountable in law for any failure to exercise their statutory power i.e. “non-feasance”.
If however, the local authority does some act which thereby injury’s another person they do have a duty of care and are responsible for the loss arising from that breach of duty of care.
Therefore, the failure by a local authority to remove or clear snow or ice from roads or footpaths is an act of “non-feasance” and attracts no legal liability.
If however, the local authority or a private person shovels snow from their premises onto the public footpath, the presence of that snow mound is not “natural” it is manmade, then that owner or occupier becomes responsible for any injury which results from that hazard created.
Furthermore, if an owner of a property pours hot water on ice to melt it and that water then re-freezes that new ice would have been created by the owner or occupier and they would be responsible for any accident or injury which results from that.
The owners of shops, offices, hotels and other public places have a greater obligation to take care for the safety of their visitors. Their obligations arise under the Occupiers Liability Act, 1995
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**This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice, professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by McElhinney & Associates for any action taken in reliance on the information contained herein. Any and all information is subject to change.