Driver v Dover Roman Painted House Trust [2014] EWHC 1929 (QB); [2014] 4 WLUK 511.

The case was a highly publicised and successful defence after heavy cross-examination. Leading authority on the Occupiers’ Liability Act, intoxication and control of premises.

A woman who fell over a Roman site wall while looking for somewhere to urinate after an evening’s drinking has lost her bid to claim damages.

Lisa Driver, 47, fell at The Roman Painted House in Dover in the early hours of 15 July 2007.

After landing at the bottom of a bank, the mother of two suffered fractures to the skull, which left her with epilepsy.

The High Court ruled that Mrs Driver was a trespasser in law, and rejected her claim that the site was dangerous.

Dover Roman Painted House Trust and Dover District Council have always denied liability, claiming Mrs Driver was a trespasser and “the author of her own misfortune”.


She has no memories of the fall, but her friend Elaine Bristow told the court that they were not drunk, although Mrs Driver had consumed five drinks of vodka and cola.

Mrs Bristow told the hearing that they went into the private car park at the closed site, while they waited for their taxi, as Mrs Driver wanted a “wee”.

She said they had used the toilets on the site on previous occasions.

I am not satisfied she [Mrs Driver] has an accurate memory of the detail of what happened that night

Judge John Leighton Williams

Philip Williams, counsel for the Dover Roman Painted House Trust, said the pair had been drinking since 19:00 BST and the taxi office did not want them there as they had “been on the pop” for six-and-a-half hours.

He said: “I suggest you were drunk.”

Mrs Bristow replied: “No, I won’t accept that.”

There have been no other accidents since the 3ft (1m) high wall was built about 40 years ago, in which time some 600,000 visitors have passed through the site, the court heard.

Giving his ruling, Judge John Leighton Williams said Mrs Driver’s agitated search for somewhere to urinate told him that her judgment was impaired and she had probably tried to climb over the wall to relieve herself on the other side.

He said: “I am not satisfied she has an accurate memory of the detail of what happened that night.

“Maybe because she wasn’t asked until two years after the event, but I suspect that drink, too, played a part.”

After the verdict, Mrs Driver, a former teaching assistant, left the court building in a wheelchair.

She said; “To be honest with you, it was the outcome that I was expecting. It was what I was expecting so, you know, life goes on for me. Nothing is going to change.

“I am still here, and I am not dead – that is a positive.”