This Country Does Not Impose Strict Liability upon Highway Authorities for all Defects


30 September, 2014

Drinkwater v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, District Judge Heels

Forbes has successfully defended another matter on behalf of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council. The Claimant brought a claim for personal injury after allegedly sustaining a serious injury resulting in a week's stay in hospital after falling whilst crossing a road.

The matter was dealt with by way of split trial and the Judge was therefore concerned with liability only.

The Judge found that the Claimant's evidence as to where she fell was not completely clear. The Claimant did not go back to check the defect following the accident as she was in hospital for a week. Rather the Claimant's daughter photographed the alleged accident location based on her understanding of where her mother had fallen. The Claimant had told her that her foot had got stuck in a big hole. Her evidence concluded with an admission that she only had a vague idea of where and what caused her mother to fall.

The Judge concluded that she was not exactly sure the Claimant had established where she fell. She continued that if she was to give the Claimant the benefit of the doubt she would have to consider whether the defect in the photographs was dangerous.

The Claimant presented photographs of the defect without measurements. As a result, much was made of whether the 20 pence piece shown in the photographs was lying flat or not.

On behalf of the Defendant, the Court heard from an engineer with over 18 years experience. He was able to provide the Court with a detailed explanation of the composition of the road surface. He explained that because the white, lime stone substance was not visible in the photographs that the defect was not 40mm. He explained that during adverse winter weather it is possible for defects to deteriorate significantly and it was therefore his best guess that the defect would be around 21mm on the day of the accident and therefore not actionable or dangerous.

The judge concluded that the defect falls more into the category of a depression and whilst she has considerable sympathy for the Claimant, "this country does not impose strict liability upon highways authorities for all defects". In summary, even if she was with the Claimant on the location of her accident, she did not satisfy the Court that the defect was dangerous.

Accordingly, the Claimant's claim was dismissed and the Defendant awarded its costs.

For further information and advice please contact Sarah Davisworth on 0113 244 6688 or by email


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