A claimant was walking home at 3am after celebrations following a rugby match and had drunk 10 bottles of beer.

He fell into an uncovered manhole cover operated by United Utilities as they were repairing a gas leak. They alleged that the cover had been removed by vandals and that barriers, which had been erected weeks prior to the accident, had been taken.

However, it takes two people to move a manhole cover and there is no particular point or value in moving it. The Judge therefore did not accept that the cover was moved by vandals and found it more likely that the Defendants had failed to cover it correctly.

The defendants relied on a daily system of inspection of the area but there was neither documentation nor personnel who had done the checks present in court.

We argued that it did not matter that we did not know how long the defect had been present if there was no proven reasonable system of inspection.

The Judge found for the claimant: the defendant had no proper defence as they could not show any regular inspection took place.

The fact that our client had been drinking was no bar to a claim but he bore 20% of the blame.

Kingston upon Hull CC