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wicklow way case

Walkers 'should know what surface they're putting their foot on', court hears

Teresa Wall was previously awarded €40,000 after injuring herself in a fall.

HILLWALKERS SHOULD TAKE personal responsibility for their own actions and involvement while participating in what can be a dangerous sport, the High Court has heard.

This is according to Helen Lawless the Hillwalking, Access and Conservation Officer Mountaineering Ireland, which represents over 180 clubs and 11,800 members involved in the sport in Ireland.

Lawless was giving evidence in an appeal against the Circuit Court’s judgment last April that experienced hillwalker Teresa Wall was entitled to €40,000 damages and her legal costs against the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Wall claims she tripped and fell when her foot snagged in a hole on a wooden boardwalk, placed on the lands by the NPWS, that forms part of the 130km Wicklow Way.

The accident occurred close to the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood on 6 August 2013.

The NPWS’s appeal resumed today before Justice Michael White, who said the case has raised “complex matters of law”.

Giving evidence, Lawless told the NPWS’s counsel Brian Murray SC hillwalkers have a personal responsibility to know what surface they are putting their footing on, whether it is rock, bog or on a boardwalk when they are out walking.

She said she was very familiar with the Wicklow Way, including the 2km section of boardwalk where the accident took place. The boardwalk is on the most elevated part of the trail.

“Fit for purpose”

The boardwalk, which was laid down more than a decade ago, she said is “solid under foot,” was “fit for purpose” and had “not failed,” on a trail that is deemed strenuous.

Under cross-examination by David McParland Bl, Lawless said she considered that after 15 years since it was laid down the boardwalk is safe for hillwalkers to use.

In reply to counsel she said members of Mountaineering Ireland took to social media after the Circuit Court ruling expressing the “very clear” opinions that they are responsible when go on the Wicklow Way or in the mountains in general.

In submissions to the court Louis McEntagart SC for Teresa Wall said that under the 1995 Occupiers Liability Act creates a duty on occupiers who place a structure on a land such as a boardwalk for use by recreational users like his client to maintain the structure in a safe condition.

The boardwalk on the date of the accident was not, counsel said, in a safe condition.

Wall (60) from Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin said she suffered a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches, and was left in severe pain for some time afterwards.

She sued the NPWS for damages in the Circuit Court alleging it had been negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her.

The claims are denied. The NPWS says Mrs Wall contributed to her injuries by not looking where she was going and was the author of her own misfortune.

The hearing continues, and is expected to conclude, tomorrow.

Comments are disabled as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Wicklow Way could “disintegrate” if €40k in damages awarded to walker >

Read: Woman who won €40k in damages after Wicklow fall faces questions over version of events >

Aodhan O Faolain