Wicklow Way trip woman has €40k award overturned
Hillwalking groups are breathing a sigh of relief after the High Court overturned a €40,000 award made to a woman who injuring herself tripping over a railway sleeper while hiking in the Wicklow mountains.
Mr Justice Michael White overturned a decision by the Dublin Circuit Court last year that found the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was negligent for not maintaining a boardwalk on the Wicklow Way.
He also dismissed Teresa Wall's claim for €40,000 in damages.
The judge said Ms Wall was "a genuine person" who had suffered injuries that had greatly affected her "active lifestyle".
However, when considering "the mechanism of her fall", the judge found there was a "high degree of negligence on Ms Wall's part, in that she was not looking at the surface of the boardwalk when she fell".
The decision has significant implications for Ireland's national parks and for the future of the Wicklow Way itself.
Fears were expressed during the appeal that, had the Circuit Court's decision been upheld, the popular route would disintegrate as private land owners would withdraw their consent to allow walkers on their property out of fear of liability.
Mountaineering Ireland, representing 12,000 hillwalkers and 185 registered clubs, welcomed the judge's decision.
"The judgment will provide reassurance to hillwalkers and to many landowners, public and private, who permit access to their land," the association said.
"It reinforces the long- established principle that people engaging in outdoor recreational activities must take responsibility for their own safety."
Keep Ireland Open, a lobby group campaigning for greater public access to rural areas, also expressed relief at the ruling.
"If the NPWS had lost this case, it would have been used by landowners as yet another excuse to restrict Ireland's already dismal level of public access to the countryside," said spokesman Michael Carroll.
Ms Wall did not respond to a request for comment made through her solicitor last night.
Judge White adjourned the matter for a fortnight to allow both parties to consider his decision and Ms Wall's situation before making any application over legal costs.