12 December, 2016
Crook v Wigan Council
30th November 2016 - Wigan County Court
The Claimant alleged that she tripped over the edge of a broken, raised and wobbly paving flag whilst walking along a busy footpath and sustained an injury.
At trial the Claimant was unable to exactly identify what had caused her accident, it was busy, and she did not look at her feet. During cross examination she claimed that it happened when the person in front stood on a wobbly flag raising a trip edge.
The Council relied on the Section 58 Defence. Given the high footfall, the Council carried out monthly inspections of the area as well as a reactive system of responding to complaints. The Judge noted that the records demonstrated that monthly inspections were being carried out and that defects were being picked up and repaired. The Judge found that the Defendant had a reasonable and pro-active monthly system.
The Claimant further argued that the area had a problem with heavy goods vehicles overriding the pavements causing damage and therefore criticised the Defendant for not removing the flags and tarmacking the area. Counsel for the Claimant asked the Court to ignore the arguments regarding budgetary constraints. However, the Judge observed that the Council had a reasonable system in place to pick up defects and had no criticism of the Council not having the area tarmacked.
In conclusion, whilst the Judge found that the Claimant did fall, he was satisfied that the Council had a reasonable system of inspection. On that basis, the Section 58 Defence succeeded, and the claim was dismissed.
It is reassuring that the judge was mindful of the budgetary constraints faced by local authorities. In an ideal world a paved area that was repetitively subjected to vehicle override would be tarmacked. However, in times of austerity Councils must prioritise budgets. In this particular instance, there had been no complaints or previous accidents, and therefore other areas in the Borough had taken priority. The Council could demonstrate that other methods such as bollards had been considered but were not suitable, and instead the Council had chosen to implement a rigorous monthly inspection scheme to ensure that the area was monitored and well maintained.