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Phillip v Leeds City Council, Leeds County Court, 15 June 2004

5 October 2004
The issues

Tripping Accident – Highways – Road Works – Whether Claimant Should Have Been Warned

The facts

On 21st February 2001 the Claimant who was aged 70 fell in Harehills Lane, Leeds. At the time of the accident it was dark. He tripped when stepping up from the level of the footpath to the higher flagged area of the forecourt of the Yorkshire Bank. The Defendant highway authority at the time was carrying out works to the footpath and the road surface either side of the frontage of the bank. The work took place on Sundays only to minimise disruption. Kerbstones were being taken out and were being replaced with higher kerbstones because the new road surface was being laid over the old.

The level of the footpath needed to be raised up in turn on the other side of the kerbstone so that it was flush with the kerbstone. Flagstones were being taken up from the footpath to be replaced by tarmac. Whilst the works were being carried out (ie on the Sunday) the area was coned off and warning signs were put in position. For the rest of the week however the area was uncordoned and no warning signs were in place. The works went on for some weeks. The Claimant visited the Yorkshire Bank cash machine on the forecourt about once per week. On the evening of the accident he was driven to the Yorkshire Bank in a car and therefore approached the cash machine from the road surface which he said he had not done before. As he crossed the footpaths to walk onto the forecourt of the bank, he tripped on the forecourt edge going forward and falling heavily. It was conceded for the Claimant that the highway authority was under no obligation to lay footpaths so that they were flush with adjoining private forecourts.

The Claimant argued instead that the works had created a risk to the Claimant whilst they were incomplete. With the flagstones removed and the raised bed laid to a new level, the discrepancy was increased and that it was the increase which caused the trip.

The decision

The difference in level between the footpath and the forecourt was so obvious so as not to require on the part of the highway authority any obligation to post any warning.

2. A ramp would have been impracticable because pedestrians would have approached the forecourt from all directions not merely one. Moreover the Court was not satisfied on the evidence that the discrepancy between forecourt and footway was any greater at the time the Claimant had suffered his fall than it had been when flagstones were there.

Claim dismissed.

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