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Winterhalder v Leeds County Court, Court of Appeal

17 November 2000
The issues

Tripping accident on highway – Claimant with limited mobility – statutory Defence – James v Precelli

The facts

The Claimant tripped on 19th February 1996 when she caught her foot between 2 kerbstones. The width of each kerbstone was 4 inches. A depth of 6 inches. A gap between the two kerbstones was not less than 2 Ω inches. There was no record as to when the footpath had last been inspected by the Local Authority and it was likely to have been inspected either in 1995 or 1996. The Highway Inspector stated that he would carry out an inspection only after a complaint. He had not seen a gap such as this before and would not have reported it. There were no previous accidents.

The Judge at first instance found that the gap was not a real source of danger. The Claimant had previously been aware of the gap. Accordingly, he dismissed the claim.

The decision

On appeal by the Claimant;

i) Following Mills v Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council – “it is an unhelpful exercise to make a comparison between the facts of this case and the facts of other cases where Claimants have tripped on the pavement”.

ii) Each case must be decided on its own particular facts. “It is difficult for a Claimant to succeed in a tripping case where he or she has tripped on the highway because it is of great importance that the Court should not impose an unreasonable burden on the Highway Authority”. The defect must be one which can be properly characterised as causing a danger to pedestrians.

iii) In this particular case a gap of 2 Ω inches between kerbstones right on the edge of the road where a person is likely to step off was a very real danger. That danger was removed immediately after the Claimant’s accident by the Local Authority. The decision was not one of principle. It did not mean that if a pedestrian trips on a gap of 2 Ω inches or indeed any other measurement that he or she is likely or unlikely to a success in recovering damages

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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