Proposed changes to duty of care law aimed at reducing insurance costs

Reform is to balance a business’s duty of care with personal responsibility of customers

There will be changes to the law on duty of care under proposals aimed at reducing insurance which have been approved by the Cabinet.

The aim of the planned insurance reforms is to balance a property owner or business’s duty of care with personal responsibility of customers or members of the public.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the plans are an "important part of what we are doing to make insurance more available and less expensive for customers, community groups, clubs and businesses and to give them more choice of insurers."

He added: “I believe it strikes a new, fairer and more reasonable balance, between the steps an owner or operator of a premises must take to keep their customers and visitors safe, and what individuals themselves can be expected to take responsibility for when entering a business, club or community building”.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the amendments contain four “key developments”.

They will see a number of recent court decisions which rebalance the duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users inserted into primary law.

There will be a change to the standard to clarify that when the occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard for a visitor or customer, it is the standard of reckless disregard rather than reasonable grounds which should apply in relation to any consideration of liability.

Limits to the circumstances in which a court can impose liability on the occupier of a premises where a person has entered onto premises for the purpose of committing an offence will be brought in.

And the amendments will also allow for a broader range of scenarios where it can be shown that a visitor or customer has voluntarily assumed a risk resulting in harm.

Ms McEntee said: “The combined effect of these developments is intended to lead to further reductions in insurance premiums, building on the success of the personal injuries guidelines introduced last year.”

The Government is now proceeding to draft the proposed legislation, which will be placed before the Oireachtas for enactment as part of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022."