05 September, 2017
Harrison v East Riding of Yorkshire Council
The claimant alleged that she was walking along a road when she came across water emerging from a drain and running alongside the road. Some of the water had frozen on the surface of the carriageway and the claimant slipped on the ice. The claimant contended that the ice had formed as a result of a defective gully.
Whilst it was noted that the gully was surcharging, the judge found that there was no defect with the gully and thereby the section 41(1) claim failed.
The claimant proceeded to argue that the local authority had breached section 41(1)(A) of the Highways Act 1980. The claimant maintained that the local authority was aware of the surcharging water; they had received complaints from members of the public and therefore should have acted to prevent ice formation in this area.
The Judge disagreed, the road was a minor road and did not fall within the defendant's gritting scheme. Whilst he agreed that there was potentially an increased risk of ice forming, the enhanced risk was not so exceptional as to justify gritting. The Council had warning of the risk but that is not the same as the risk being borne out. The Judge concluded that it cannot be reasonably practicable to expect the Council to respond to every complaint relating to the risk of ice forming.
The key issue arising from this case is that a local authority is not automatically in breach of section 41(1)(a) Highways Act if they have failed to respond to a complaint relating to the potential risk of ice forming on the highway.
Highway authorities are only under a duty to ensure safe passage along the highway so far as is reasonably practicable. Although, it should be noted that each case will be decided on its own facts.