Judge notes effect of adverse weather


16 April, 2010

Paul Stephen v Warrington Borough Council

Warrington County Court 1st February 2010

District Judge Cahill

The Claimant sought damages for personal injuries sustained when he tripped over a defect in the carriageway on 16th May 2008. The Claimant had parked his van part on the pavement and part on the road. As he stepped out of his vehicle, he placed his foot into a pothole and sustained a broken ankle.

The area of the accident is annually inspected and was inspected prior to the accident on 18th February 2008. Following a complaint made after the accident, a further inspection was carried out and the defect was noted.

Due to the size of the defect, the Defendant maintained that had such a defect been present on the February inspection it would have been clearly visible. The Defendant provided evidence that at the time of the accident heavy contract traffic was passing through the area, which may have caused the defect to appear and deteriorate quickly.

The judge accepted that the Defendant's system of inspection was adequate and accepted that the defect was not present at the time of inspection. He also drew the courts attention to external factors contributing to the rapid deterioration of the highways, in particular, the well documented changes in weather conditions, which have caused potholes to occur rapidly. Accordingly, the claim was dismissed and the Defendant was awarded their costs of the proceedings.

Forbes Comment

This case emphasises the fact that the courts are aware of the mounting pressures on Local Highway Authorities and their battle to continuously maintain the condition of the highways against external factors. Although adequate systems are in place to pick up defects, Councils cannot foresee or control factors such as the recent bad weather which has caused roads everywhere to rapidly deteriorate.

For further information please contact Caroline Smith at our Manchester office, Church House, 90 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2GP. Tel: 0161 918 0000.


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