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Duty-of-care law change comes into effect

31 Jul 2023 / legislation Print

Duty-of-care law change comes into effect

Legislation that changes the law on the duty of care owed by businesses, community groups and event organisers to visitors and recreational users has been commenced.

The legislation amends the Occupiers Liability Act 1995, and is aimed at reducing the cost of insurance.

The Department of Justice says that the amendments “strike the right balance” between ensuring that businesses, community groups and organisers fulfil their duty-of-care responsibilities, while acknowledging the importance of personal responsibility of visitors, recreational users and trespassers.

‘Reckless disregard’

The amendments include four key elements linked to occupiers’ duty of care:

  • Inserting into primary law a number of recent court decisions that rebalance the duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users,
  • Changing 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, that 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, and
  • Allowing for a broader range of scenarios where it can be shown that a visitor or customer has voluntarily assumed a risk, resulting in harm.

“The commencement of this legislation marks an important step in our efforts to make insurance more available and cheaper,” said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The duty-of-care changes were introduced as part of a wider bill that included measures on the courts and legal services, as well as insurance.

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