Crawley v Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 36

Hill Top Avenue in Barnsley, where the pothole was situated. Credit: Google Maps

Lee Crawley was out on an evening jog (January) in Barnsley when his foot when into a large pothole, causing him to fall and suffer a severe ankle injury.

The pothole in question had been reported to the local Council on the day before Lee’s accident (a Friday) at 4.20pm. Despite the passage of over 24 hours, the highway inspectors had failed to take any action to repair it.

Mr Crawley alleged that the reason for his fall was the Council's negligence and breach of statutory duty under the Highways Act 1980. He claimed damages accordingly.

At first instance, the Judge found that the Council had available to it a defence under the 1980 Act – namely, that it had taken reasonable care in the circumstances to ensure that the part of the highway in question was not dangerous for traffic.

This decision was then reversed on appeal.

The court emphasised that there is no justification for dealing with complaints made on a Friday any differently from those made on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

The Council appealed this decision but the action was dismissed.

The court considered it significant that the caller who had contacted the Council on Friday 27th January had described the road as having “deep potholes” that created a risk of damage to his vehicle - this should have flagged a need for immediate inspection.

The Council's present system of only dealing with complaints made out of hours when they were reported by a member of the emergency services, was inadequate.

A link to the full decision can be found here.

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