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TORT Study Notes :Liability of Owner for Dangerous Premises

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Here we are providing you updated and most relevant Study notes on Tort of  Liability of Owner for Dangerous Premises  for Law Entrance Exam. These study notes are highly recommendable for all those who aspire to crack CLAT, DULLB, AILET and other Law Entrance Exam.

The occupier owes a common duty towards all his visitors to take such care as in all circumstances the visitor will be reasonably safe. The visitor may be a lawful visitor or a trespasser.

I. OBLIGATION OF OCCUPIERS.

The nature of obligation of an occupier of land may be classified as:
· Obligation towards lawful visitor
· Obligation towards trespassers
· Obligation towards children.

1. Obligation towards lawful visitors
Where a person enters the land of another in pursuance of a contract or is an invitee, the
latter must take reasonable care to prevent injury to the invitee from danger of which he
knew or ought to have known.

Case Law : Indermaur Vs. Dames
In that case, the plaintiff, who was a gas fitter, entered the defendant’s premises for testing
certain gas fittings there. While doing so, he fell from an unfenced opening on the upper
floor and was injured. The plaintiff, being an invitee on those premises, the defendant was
held liable for the injury caused to him.

Case Law: Klous Mittlebachert Vs. East India Hotels Ltd.
The plaintiff, a German took a dive in a swimming pool in a five star hotel at New Delhi,
there was insufficient water in the swimming pool and the head of the boy was hit against
the bottom. Court held that the management authorities are liable for not taking reasonable
care of the lawful visitors.

2. Obligation towards Trespassers
A trespasser is person who enters into the premises of another without seeking permission,
and whose presence/visit is either known or unknown to the owner, moreover even if is
known, the occupier has objections towards trespassers.

The general rule is that an occupier is not liable in tort to a trespasser. There are two
exceptions to this rule:
a) The occupier must not deliberately cause harm to the trespasser.
b) He must not act with reckless disregard to trespasser’s safety if he has knowledge of
his presence in his premises or land.

Note: If the occupier acquiesces to the frequent acts of trespass, he is deemed to have
tacitly licensed the entry of others on the land. Such visitors become entitled to the
rights of licensee on the land.

Case Law : Lowery Vs. Walker
The defendant was an occupier of a field, adjacent to a railway station. Members of the
public used his field as a short cut to reach the railway station. Though the defendant
objected to it, he took no effective steps to stop the practice. Meanwhile the defendant
bought a savage horse and kept it on his land without any notice. One day the horse attacked
a trespasser (plaintiff) who was seriously injured. It was held that the plaintiff be
cause of the tacit permission from the defendant had now been vested with rights of a
licensee. Therefore, the defendant was liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff.

NOTE: The occupier for the protection of premises cannot install of spring guns and
setting a live naked electric wire, and any such dangerous object.

3. Obligation towards Children
Occupier must take reasonable care to ensure the safety of its visitors and if the occupier
knows that, the visitors are children he needs to be more careful as children are generally
less careful than the adults are. They are more susceptible to dangers. Hence, the occupier
must take reasonable care to guard them against such dangers from which the adults may
not need any protection.

Case Law : Glasgow Corporation Vs. Taylor
A corporation maintained a public park. A child, who had come to the park, plucked a fruit
looking like a berry, from the shrubs. It was poisonous and the child died after consuming
it. It was held that the corporation was liable for their negligence in not fencing the shrubs.

Structures on Highways or adjoining Highways The structures adjoining the highway must be maintained in such a way as not to be dangerous to the users of highway. If the building is in a bad condition and can cause damage if any such damage is caused then the occupier will be liable.

Example Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Subhagwanti.
The Supreme Court observed that “because of the potential danger of the tower maintained
by it having been subjected to a careful and systematic inspection which it was legal duty of
the appellant to carry out”

II. LIABILITY OF OWNERS FOR DANGEROUS ANIMALS

A person who keeps an animal of dangerous species or non dangerous species who is vicious
in nature is solely and strictly liable for any damage caused due to his negligence.
There are certain rules to fix the liability under this head.

1) Scienter Rule
This rule makes the owner of dangerous animals strictly liable even without proof of negligence
for the damage caused by them if they escape. Examples of such animals are lions,
monkeys, elephants, wolves, apes, bears etc.
In case of animals of non dangerous nature, like cows, dogs, rabbits, cats, horses, camels
etc, the owner is liable for the damage caused by them only if it can be proved that the
animals had the vicious tendencies and the owner knew about it.

Case law: Read Vs. Edward
The owner of the dog was held liable for his dog’s act of trespassing and killing pheasants of
his neighbor.

2) Trespass of Cattle
The term cattle include cows, bulls, buffaloes, horses, sheep, goats, poultry etc. It does not
include dogs, cats or wild animals. If any damage is caused by trespass of cattle upon the
land of another, the owner is strictly and absolutely liable.
For example: A owns few sheep and took them for grazing in an open area, on his way there was a beautiful lawn maintained by B, A was busy in talking and the sheep entered into the B’s lawn and destroyed the plants, Ais liable for not taking reasonable care which was required in present circumstances.

Practice exercise:

1. The occupier does not owe a common duty towards all his visitors to take such care as in all circumstances the visitor will be reasonably safe.
A. True B. False
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.B

2. What is the nature of obligation of an occupier of land?
A. Obligation towards lawful visitor B. Obligation towards trespassers
C. Obligation towards children. D. All of the above
Ans.D

3. Where a person enters the land of another in pursuance of a contract or is an invitee, the
latter must take reasonable care to prevent injury to the invitee from danger of which he
knew or ought to have known.
A. True B. False
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

4. The plaintiff, who was a gas fitter, entered the defendant’s premises for testing certain gas fittings there. While doing so, he fell from an unfenced opening on the upper floor and was injured. Will the defendant be liable?
A. Yes B. No
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

5. The plaintiff, a German took a dive in a swimming pool in a five star hotel at New Delhi,
there was insufficient water in the swimming pool and the head of the boy was hit against
the bottom. Will the hotel be held liable?
A. Yes B. No
C. All of the above D. None of the above
Ans.A

6. Would the hotel be liable if there were warning signs place and it was clearly mentioned that diving is prohibited?
A. Yes B. No
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.B

7. The general rule is that an occupier is not liable in tort to a trespasser. What are the
exceptions to this rule?
A. The occupier must not deliberately cause harm to the trespasser.
B. He must not act with reckless disregard to trespasser’s safety if he has knowledge of
his presence in his premises or land
C. All of the above
D. None of the above
Ans.C

8. Occupier must take reasonable care to ensure the safety of its visitors and if the occupier
knows that, the visitors are children he needs to be more careful as children are generally
less careful than the adults are.
A. True B. False
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

9. A corporation maintained a public park. A child, who had come to the park, plucked a fruit
looking like a berry, from the shrubs. Will the Corporation be liable?
A. Yes B. No
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

10. The structures adjoining the highway must be maintained in such a way as not to be
dangerous to the users of highway.
A. True B. False
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

11. A person who keeps an animal of dangerous species or non dangerous species who is vicious
in nature is solely and strictly liable for any damage caused due to his negligence
A. True B. False
C. May be D. None of the above
Ans.A

12. A owns few sheep and took them for grazing in an open area, on his way there was a
beautiful lawn maintained by B, A was busy in talking and the sheep entered into the B’s
lawn and destroyed the plants. Will A be held liable?
A. Yes B. No
Ans.A


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