Here is a mash-up of a couple of emails I’ve received over the last few days from careless pedestrians who were on the scrounge for legal advice. I added a pinch of my own imagination, too.
During the recent icy weather at the weekend, I slipped over on a non-gritted pavement which runs along public road. It’s my believe [sic] that the local council is responsible for this and they have failed in their duty by not gritting. I want to know if I can sue them because of their negligence. They are totally irresponsible if you ask me.
Although I was not badly injured , just battered and bruised really, at one point I ended up doing ‘the splits’ quite involuntarily on the pavement. I thought my days as a gymnast were well behind me – apparently not. I was badly winded and embarrassed as anybody in the houses that overlook the road would have seen me sprawled out on the pavement
scrabbling like a beached whale.
But worst of all, I ripped out the crotch on my trousers. If I decide to sue them what are the chances of claiming the cost of the trousers back from the local council? A friend of mine ‘in the know’ mentioned something about special damages and wondered if they would be relevant here? But I also want compensation for the injury I suffered because I’ve been walking with a limp since.
Do you think I have a good claim?
Are there any claims specialists or solicitors that you could recommend?
Hmm... how to answer this and avoiding using profanities... tricky.)
s 41(1A) of the Highways Act 1980 (which was added by s 111 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003) provides that a highway authority has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway for which it is responsible is not endangered by snow or ice. This essentially reverses Goodes v East Sussex County Council  3 All ER 603.
The truth is, establishing the local authority were in breach of their statutory duty considering the inclusion of that phrase “so far as is reasonably practicable” is the very tough bit. While each case must be judged on its own merits, the obligation on authorities does not appear to be particularly onerous and the duty to keep all roads and pavements free of snow and ice must be balanced with what is feasible in reality and particularly financial constraints under which councils operate.
In short, you ain’t got a chance, chuck. I’d keep your silly ideas (and emails!!) to yourself and try and be bit more pragmatic. For instance, I’d suggest a needle and thread on your trousers and ice grippers for your shoes in future. Next time you fancy a brisk winter’s walk, think twice, and switch on Deal or No Deal instead.