20 January, 2020
Anon v Conwy County Borough Council and Anor
The Claimant was involved in an accident when cycling along a path in May 2016. The Claimant alleged that as he was cycling along the path his rear wheel went over a square hinged water utilities cover which caused the cover to flip open causing the rear wheel of the bicycle to become trapped. The Claimant states that he was flung over the handlebars of his bicycle and landed on the ground.
The claim was brought against the First Defendant on the basis of breach of duty under s.41 of the Highways Act 1980 and/or negligence and against the Second Defendant on the basis of breach of duty pursuant to s.81 New Road and Street Works Act 1991 and/or negligence. Liability was denied by both Defendants on the basis that they had met their statutory obligations. Forbes acted on behalf of the First Defendant.
After hearing all the evidence at the trial, the Judge concluded that the Claimant had fallen from his bicycle in a busy area. However, the Claimant had not proved what had caused him to fall off his bike. The Claimant was not sure if the front wheel of his bicycle went over the lid of the stop tap box, nor did he know what had happened with the back wheel. The Judge noted that the stop tap box lid was flat prior to the accident and therefore it was not reasonably foreseeable that the accident would have occurred. The Judge therefore dismissed the claim.
The Judge also considered the Council's system of inspection and found that they had a reasonable system of inspection. He specifically commented that the visual inspections by the council's inspectors were entirely appropriate. There was no evidence put before the Court to suggest that Conwy should have done more.
The Court commented that it was also acceptable that Second Defendant could rely on Conwy's defence. It was noted that there had been a small cluster of complaints in relation to stop tap box cover. The covers were identified and repaired and there was only a small number of lids that had been problematic. The Judge would not have found liability on either of the defendants even if he had found that the accident had occurred in the manner alleged.
This was a fantastic outcome for the First Defendant. The First Defendant had been extremely sceptical about the Claimant's description of the accident from the outset of the claim. In addition, it was encouraging to note that the Judge was satisfied that the visual inspection of the stop tap box by the council's inspectors was 'entirely appropriate' even though the inspection had been performed from a moving vehicle by way of driven inspection.
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