Court Success: A Partially worn away utility cover surface pattern does not amount to a danger on the highway

Lewis v Wirral MBC (Birkenhead CC)

Background
The defendant highway authority was not liable for injuries suffered by the claimant when she slipped on a utility cover on which the pattern had partially worn at the edge, on 13 March 2015

Claim
The claimant’s case was that she slipped on the surface of a utility cover because the surface pattern had worn away creating a slip hazard that amounted to a breach of section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 (the Act). A photograph of the alleged defect is shown below. The council denied liability on the simple basis that the alleged defect was not dangerous.

Judgement
The claim was dismissed. The worn area of the utility cover did not exceed 10% of its surface area and there had been no prior complaints or other reported accidents. The judge held that to view a defect of this nature as a breach of section 41 would be to set the standard of repair for the public highway too high and place an unreasonable burden on highway authorities.

Commentary
The claim was dismissed. The worn area of the utility cover did not exceed 10% of its surface area and there had been no prior complaints or other reported accidents. The judge held that to view a defect of this nature as a breach of section 41 would be to set the standard of repair for the public highway too high and place an unreasonable burden on highway authorities.

This claim was handled by our Samantha Beck in our Newcastle Casualty Team. Weightmans, represented Zurich and Wirral MBC during  litigation.