17 May, 2018
Gilpin v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
Preston County Court
On 21st May 2016, the claimant alighted from a taxi, took a few paces and stumbled in a pothole falling onto her outstretched hand and suffered injury. The claimant brought a claim against the local authority under the Highways Act 1980.
The defendant had carried out a pre-accident inspection of the area in question on 26th October 2015 and three potholes had been identified. Repairs were ordered and the work was completed within the standard 20-day repair time.
Four days prior to the claimant's accident a member of the public had contacted the local authority and reported the presence of potholes near to the accident locus. On 17 May 2016, a highway inspector visited the roadway and undertook an inspection. He identified five potholes which in his opinion called for repair and he ordered the repairs to be carried out within the standard 20-day period. Only if the defect was located within a town centre or in high usage area would the repair have been carried out within 2 days or, alternatively, if the defect was of such a nature likely to cause a threat to life and limb then he would have been required to make it safe within four hours.
The Judge agreed that the potholes identified on 17th May were not likely to cause threat to life and limb. They were three fairly obvious potholes but not of a nature which called for immediate repair within four hours.
The claimant also submitted that the repair undertaken in November 2015 had failed within 6 months. However, the Judge concluded that there was very little evidence to prove that the repair had failed and if the repair had failed, that the repair had been inadequate.
The Judge found that the highway contained actionable defects such as to give rise to a foreseeable incident. However, the local authority had identified the defects and had put in motion arrangements to repair the said defects. He found that the annual inspection was entirely appropriate. The Judge was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the defendant had taken care to secure that the highway was reasonably safe and had proved a defence under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.
It was unfortunate that an accident occurred in the period in between the inspection of the road and the repairs being carried out. The Judge commented that the public cannot expect such a high burden of responsibility on the local authority. The local authority acted in accordance with the Code of Practice and in the circumstances could have done little more.
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