A Misjudgement of Law

Article

03 October, 2018

Lovell v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

A claimant discontinued his claim at trial after proceeding on the erroneous basis that a highway is the same as a highway maintainable at the public expense.

The claimant alleged that he was walking along an alleyway when he tripped, fell and sustained a personal injury. A claim was brought pursuant to s41 Highways Act 1980. The claimant alleged that the local authority had assumed responsibility for the alleyway as it had laid tarmac and installed lighting. The claimant contended that there was a failure to maintain and repair the alleyway as well as a failure to institute a system of inspection.

From the outset, the local authority denied liability. The accident occurred on private, unadopted land and the alleyway was not a highway maintainable at the public expense.

At the trial, the parties went before the Judge to debate the status of the alleyway. The claimant conceded at the outset of the trial that he could not advance any evidence that the tarmac on the alleyway had been laid by the local authority. The claimant's case therefore proceeded on the basis that that the Court should infer from the presence of the lighting that the alleyway was a highway maintainable at the public expense. There was no legal basis for such argument and eventually the claimant requested an adjournment to discontinue the claim.

Forbes comment

The claimant's solicitors had misinterpreted the law and the penny only appeared to drop at the doors of the Court. Whilst this was a pleasing outcome, it was also frustrating that the case had got this far. The parties did not have the opportunity to give evidence at the trial and therefore there was no scope for arguing fundamental dishonesty.

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