04 December, 2018
Seddon v Bolton Council
The claimant alleged that she fell in a pothole and sustained serious personal injuries. She brought a claim for personal injury against the local authority.
At trial, the claimant described that she was walking back from the local off licence. As she walked around the corner, a van approached her in the opposite direction, gesticulating rudely for her to get out of the way. She jumped out of the road and on to the pavement at which point she fell. She explained that she had been walking in the road because she knew the pothole was there and wanted to avoid it. She alleged that the pothole had been present since November 2016.
Following the trip, the claimant said she used a telephone pole to pull herself up off the floor. The telephone pole was located at the end of the street, and her witness statement suggested the accident occurred on the corner, yet the defect was situated four houses down from this location.
The Judge was unable to fathom the claimant's account of the accident, but in any event, the claim failed due to the s.58 defence. The street was examined on an annual basis and the Judge accepted the evidence of the highway inspector that given the size of the pothole he would not have missed it during his inspection. The defendant was able to put forward compelling evidence to confirm that following the annual inspection on 7th March 2017, a skip permit was requested on 8th March 2017. The Judge found that the damage was consistent with the use of a skip and therefore dismissed the claim.
By producing the skip permit, the defendant was able to provide to the Court an explanation for the cause of the pothole and proof that the damage to the pavement was sustained following the annual highway inspection. Whilst it is not always possible to find a smoking gun, in cases where the local authority can provide a possible explanation for the cause of a pothole or the rapid deterioration of a pothole it can only help to support the section 58 defence.