Tourist holds Shire liable for her injury at their caravan park

Risk Matters - Summer 2024

A woman in her 50s lost her balance and fell while stepping up over a concrete mound within a popular caravan park. She fractured her ankle and held one of our regional members liable for the injury and loss suffered, alleged to have been $190k.

The claimant and her partner were at the caravan park to attend a cultural festival, and planned to stay one night after the event. The event took place about several hundred metres away from park.

Between 5:30pm and 6:00pm, the plaintiff and her husband left their caravan and walked towards the festival. It was still daylight and visibility was good. They each carried a fold-up chair and torch.

They followed other patrons of the park by walking along a well- worn path across a grassed area and through a garden bed under some trees, then stepping up over a concrete mound within the caravan park to access a public footpath that led to the festival. The concrete mound was 30cm high.

When the festival finished, the two walked back to the caravan park, following the same route – after stepping onto and then back down from the concrete mound, the woman lost her balance and fell over.

During the court trial, she gave differing accounts as to the mechanism of her accident. Although the judge found that when walking from the public footpath back into the caravan park, the plaintiff held onto a post and stepped onto the concrete mound before attempting to step down into the garden bed, the court was unable to identify how the plaintiff lost her balance and fell.

The evidence produced at the trial stated that the concrete mound had no defects which caused or contributed to the incident. Although it was less than ideal as a step because it was domed shaped.

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LGIS findings

The matter was taken to court and LGIS’ solicitors were instructed to defend the matter. The Shire gave evidence that there were five other access points that the plaintiff could have utilised to enter or exit the caravan park.

The woman stated she consumed between one and three glasses of wine at the festival. Whilst returning from the event after about four hours, she walked the same route, although utilising a torch because it was dark.


The judge determined that ‘the location and physical presentation of the concrete ridge was obvious to any person taking reasonable care for their own safety’ according to the Civil Liability Act 2002, as the concrete mound was an obvious risk and the Shire was not required to erect warnings about it.

As the claimant had stepped over the concrete mound earlier the same day and was using a torch at the time of the incident, she should have been able to safely navigate the incident location without sustaining an injury.

The Shire gave evidence that it was unaware of any prior incidents at this location; however, the judge determined that the Shire’s record keeping was ‘very loose and undefined’.

She also commented that the Shire’s process for recording incidents at the caravan park was flawed, inconvenient, unclear and unusable, shedding doubt on its accuracy. Whilst this did not affect the outcome of the judgment, the judge was unable to rely on the Shire’s records as evidence regarding previous incidents at the park.

The claimant did not allege that the level of lighting at the park was a contributing factor to the incident, so the judge did not contemplate that issue.

The judge’s summary of her decision was:

  • That the risk of harm posed by the concrete ridge was an obvious risk within the meaning of s 5F of the Civil Liability Act 2002.
  • That the operation of s 5O of the Civil Liability Act 2002 means that the defendant did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff to warn her of that obvious risk.
  • That the risk of harm posed by the concrete ridge was foreseeable.
  • That the risk of harm posed by the concrete ridge was insignificant (as pedestrians taking care for their own safety could easily safely navigate their way around or over the mound).
  • That discharging its duty of care to the plaintiff, the defendant was not required to warn, discourage, cordon off or remove the concrete ridge.”

Lessons from this case

Whilst LGIS’ solicitors were successful in defending the Shire in this claim, there are lessons from the judgment to better protect local governments from similar situations.

  • Obvious risks – Members do not have to warn the public about ‘obvious risks’ but risks that are not obvious to members of the public (including at night time), need to be managed adequately to warn or protect the public against injury or damage.
  • Record keeping – Local governments should ensure that all works, including inspections and maintenance, are adequately recorded. Records should be easily accessible, and relevant employees should be trained on all work processes and how to record incidents.
  • Lighting – Member owned and/or controlled premises, particularly where the public is being asked to pay for using them, should be assessed to determine if adequate lighting is installed to ensure reasonably safe access at night, where applicable. Lighting should be inspected periodically to ensure continued operation.

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