Ice on the road cases

There is an article in Personal Injury Law Journal November 2004 about the statutory duty for highway authorities to treat icy or snowy highways from 31 October 2003 (s41(1A) Highways Act 1980 as amended). It reminds us there is no common law duty and that the statutory duty is a “reasonably practicable” one and gives the opinion that a defence can be made under s.58 Highways Act .

The most useful part, on pages 8-9, is an exhaustive list of what disclosure should be sought, which goes to the heart of the policy decision making process as to whether to salt or grit certain roads and how to maintain them.

The article was by the claimant's barrister in the leading cases of Goodes and Sandhar: John Ross QC, No 1 Serjeant's Inn.

Tripping trial

The claimant won here, though the defendant argued that the pavement had been inspected two days before and the “defect” was only 20 mm.The defence brought lay evidence from the Highways Inspector who was cross examined.

The claimant produced photos proving the defect after the accident. A witness confirmed the defect had been in similar poor repair for months prior to the accident and that he had made calls to the council to complain. Moreover, the pavement rocked making the 20 mm defect greater and more dangerous.

Held: this was a hazard that needed consideration and action.The defendants had knowledge of the hazard and had a duty to deal with it and could not make out a section 58 defence. The Claimant succeeded.

They had made no offers so seven per cent interest was allowed on damages as a claimant's Part 36 offer was beaten in the award.

Caroline Laws -v- London Borough of Ealing, DJ Edwards, Brentford County Court , 2 December 2004.

Passengers falling on buses

The leading law on this sort of case – a standing passenger thrown by the sharp braking action of a bus – remains Fletcher -v- United Counties Omnibus Company Limited, 1998 PIQR P154,CA, where it was held there was no duty on the bus driver to ensure all passengers were seated before moving off and that providing appropriate safety supports was a reasonably safe measure for the company to provide passengers.

However Thompsons' Newcastle office managed to secure an 80/20 per cent settlement here in the claimant's favour. Witnesses confirmed the manner in which the bus driver had swerved and braked was negligent notwithstanding the claimant had got up to ring the bell 70 yards before the stop and the bus had braked in part due to the actions of another driver.

The trial proceeded on quantum only and a 6-12 month soft tissue injury to the shoulder and neck with four months off work and a six-month adjustment disorder/travel phobia led to an award of £3,500 general damages.

Flatman -v- Arriva North East, 12 October 2004, DDJ Morgan, Newcastle upon Tyne CC.

No duty for carers to escort Down's Syndrome sufferer

The boy in question was injured crossing a road on his way to a day-care centre. He was on his own on his way to the defendant Council’s day centre. His lack of competence to do so, as a result of his Down's syndrome, was argued. The reasonableness of the defendant's system was brought into question, however, the contract did not specify the boy was to be brought from door to door.

Given what was known about his competence, the system for transporting him to the day centre was reasonably safe.

Slater -v- Bucks CC and anor, CA 10/11/2004.