A Step Too Far

Article

06 July, 2011

Byrne v Oldham MBC - District Judge Osborne - Oldham County Court

Forbes has successfully defended an Occupiers Liability claim brought against Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council at trial.

The Claimant had been using external steps at a local park when she tripped due to an irregular and increased height of the riser on the third step causing her to fall and sustain a personal injury. The steps had formed part of a bowling pavilion and been present since the 1960's.

It was alleged by the Claimant that the steps were unsafe, dangerous, inappropriately constructed and did not comply with British Standards. The Claimant alleged that in order to remedy the steps it was necessary to take them up wholesale and reconstruct at a significant cost of around £10,000.

The Judge held the issue of dangerousness was for him to decide upon which involved balancing of the risk and the needs of the local authority. Because there may have been a minor risk did not mean that the steps were dangerous. He also found that the British Standards did not apply retrospectively. He held that the condition of the steps were not in such a state of repair which the Court should allocate £10,000 to reconstruct them.

Most significantly however, the judge found that the local authority must balance its budget and that it was not appropriate in general for the court to instruct the local authority as to how they should allocate resources to one particular job than another. He found that there was no breach of duty.

The claim was dismissed with an Order for costs against the Claimant.

Forbes Comment

It is noteworthy that Judges are taking into account the current budgetary restraints faced by local authorities in balancing the risk as to whether the Council should expend considerable amounts of money on remedying a possible danger which gives rise to a low risk and was minor in nature. A sensible and common sense approach to the duty of reasonableness.

If you require any further information on local authority liability claims or matters arising from the above then please do not hesitate to contact Ridwaan Omar on 01254 662831 or by emailing Ridwaan Omar

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