Titchener v British Railways Board [1983] 1 WLR 1427

Tort law – Trespassing – Duty of care

Facts

The appellant was struck by a train and was very seriously injured. This had taken place whilst the appellant was crossing a railway line between two suburban stations. This route had to be accessed by climbing an embankment and cutting through a gap in a fence. The fence had fallen into disrepair and had not been maintained by the respondent. The appellant brought an action under the Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960, claiming that the accident was caused by a failure to maintain the fence. The trial judge found for the respondents. The decision was subsequently appealed.

Issue

The court was required to weigh whether a duty was owed by the defendant to the claimant and importantly, whether they had discharged this duty by erecting a fence to prevent the public cutting across the railway line. In compiling their decision, the court would also have to decide as to whether the disrepair of the fence could fall under the defendant’s liability.

Held

The appeal was dismissed. The duty that would have been owed under the Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 was meant for specific individuals entering the premises in question. The respondents discharged their duty of care by building a fence which was deemed to constitute a sufficient warning to keep people out of the property. There was no duty to maintain the fence in a reasonable state of repair.  Moreover, it was deemed that if there had been, the appellant was deemed to have accepted the risks of crossing the train line.