01 February, 2013
Forbes successfully defended a claim against Conwy County Borough Council in a claim for personal injuries when a member of public slipped on a pedestrianised road in Colwyn Bay, in the week leading up to Christmas in 2010.
The road in question was one of two main pedestrianized roads in the town centre and provided the main route towards the local shopping centre. It was the Claimant's case that the surrounding main roads, and indeed, the other main pedestrianized road, had been gritted which allowed her to walk without danger, but that Sea View Road had been completely untouched by the Council.
The Council pointed out that it was a major route of significant commercial value and that it had been a priority for gritting. The Council's witnesses gave evidence that the route had been gritted by the market manager and the market stall owners, and again by the street cleansing team deployed for the purpose of gritting. The supervisor in charge of the operation also gave evidence that he had inspected the area prior to the accident and felt it had been cleared and gritted to a suitable level.
The Judge considered the Claimant to be an honest witness and accepted that she had fallen as and when she claimed. However, he went on to endorse the Council's system of gritting, maintaining that the deployment of workers with buckets and shovels to clear ice and spread grit on a busy shopping highway was a reasonable implementation of a reasonable system, taking into account all the constraints on a council's time and resources.
This case reminds us that councils do not have an absolute duty, and the mere happening of an accident is not necessarily indicative of negligence. It should give encouragement to local authorities, who are facing a constant struggle to meet demands with decreasing budgets and limits on their resources. It also demonstrates how crucial it is for authorities to ensure that their systems are reasonable, and that reasonable efforts are taken to effectively implement their policies.
The case further emphasises importance of preparing a thorough defence, which in this case, involved presenting evidence from a considerable number of witnesses to show the scale of the gritting operation and the supervision to accompany it.