We have all tripped on a pavement or stumbled due to a hole in a footpath, however, we are usually able to regain our balance and avoid falling. Sometimes we are not so lucky and unfortunately may suffer a fall that results in a nasty injury, such as fractured bones or strained joints, that requires medical treatment at the local hospital.
The Highways Act 1980 places a legal duty on the local council to maintain the highway in a reasonably safe condition. This means that the local council must have a system for inspecting and repairing pavements and roads.
An example of this may be seen in an accident compensation claim made by Louise Bell against the local council after she suffered a fracture to her left ankle whilst she was taking her dog for a walk. Mrs Bell had to undergo surgery for a metal plate and screws to be inserted to repair her broken ankle.
Whilst walking her dog Mrs Bell had stepped on a brick that was part of the edging to a hole in a paved area where a tree had once been planted in the hole. The tree had been removed, however, the edging around the hole of raised bricks had not been dismantled. The local council had filled in with concrete the hole where the tree had been growing but had not dismantled the brick edging to the hole, even though in places the upright bricks stuck up about 10cms above the paving stones.
The county court judge held that Mrs Bell was entitled to compensation from the local council for the injury suffered to her left ankle in the fall. For reasons of safety, the local council had filled in the hole after the tree had been removed and should also have taken away the sticking up bricks that were edging the hole.
The Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision that the old hole edged with sticking up bricks that had been a planter for a tree was a foreseeable danger for people walking in the area and that there was a duty on the local council to repair the area to make it safe again. The local council had been in breach of its legal duty under the Highways Act and therefore must pay compensation to Mrs Bell for the injury to her ankle.
The Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Louise Bell v London Borough of Havering.
The Highways Act 1980.
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