Court Success: A great result for Highway Authorities
- Zurich Municipal welcomes the court success of June Cummings v Wirral MBC (Birkenhead County Court)
- The trial Judge has endorsed the local authority’s system of highway inspection and defect classification
- The defendant was not liable for injuries suffered by the claimant when she tripped and fell as a result of a carriageway defect
The defendant highway authority was not liable for injuries suffered by the claimant when she tripped and fell as a result of a carriageway defect in June 2015.
The claimant alleged that she had taken three or four steps into the carriageway to cross the road when she heard a siren and turned back to the pavement. In doing so she said she then came into contact with a defect adjacent to the kerb and a gully grid. The claimant’s case was that the defect constituted a breach of section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 (the Act) and that it was longstanding. In support of the latter point she relied on witness evidence from two work colleagues as well as statements from two purportedly independent witnesses who corroborated this evidence. The local authority’s case was that it carried out monthly walked inspections and the defect had not been identified. A complaint was received in October 2015 after which a highway inspector attended the location and no defect requiring repair was recorded. The local authority was notified of the claimant’s claim in December 2015. A further inspection of the location was carried out and the defect was listed for repair. The local authority disputed that the defect constituted a breach of S.41 of the Act at the time of the accident. It also relied on its system of inspection to support a defense under S.58 of the Act. Further, investigations established that one of the ‘independent’ witnesses, a person who said that she did not know the claimant, was in fact the partner of the claimant’s daughter.
The claim was dismissed. The claimant accepted in cross-examination that she may have simply tripped on the kerb and the judge noted that this version of events was supported by the contemporaneous medical records. Accordingly, the claimant could not prove her case. In any event, the Judge held that the defect was not dangerous at the time of the accident and found that the claimant’s photographs were not reliable as there were no accurate measurements and the person who took the measurements/photographs had not provided evidence. The issue of the veracity of the claimant’s witness largely fell away as a result of the failure of the witness to attend court.
This is yet another excellent Highways result in which the trial Judge has endorsed the local authority’s system of highway inspection and defect classification.