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Short v Devon County Council, County Court, 11 March 2002

11 March 2002
The issues

Public liability – highway – manhole cover.

The facts

The Claimant fell down a drainage hole in the pavement alongside the seafront at Torquay. She alleged that the drain cover had been lifted and that the street lamp next to it was not working at the time of the accident. The Claimant argued that the drain covers which were susceptible to movement from incoming tides in extreme weather conditions were not fit for their purpose. The Defendant relied on its inspection systems.

The decision

1. As a matter of fact the District Judge found that the lighting was working on the night of the accident.

2. The manhole cover had been up on the night of the accident, but it appeared that the cover had been raised twice only in the period of the preceding 2 years. This was not therefore a regular occurrence. The Defendant’s ordinary inspection system was sufficient and the Claimant’s suggestion that the Defendant employ manhole “scouts” in hazardous weather to guard drainage holes or employ extra patrols or restructure the sewer system so that manhole covers would not dislodge was imposing too onerous a duty.

Judgment for Defendant.

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