Goodes v East Sussex County Council: HL 16 Jun 2000

The claimant was driving along a road. He skidded on ice, crashed and was severely injured. He claimed damages saying that the Highway authority had failed to ‘maintain’ the road.
Held: The statutory duty on a highway authority to keep a road in repair did not include an absolute duty to remove all ice. The 1959 Act was a consolidating Act and did not extend the responsibilities of highway authorities. ‘Maintenance and repair’ might sometimes include the removal of ice, but, and contrary to established authority, those words related to works to the surface of the roadway not to matter which might accumulate on it. The presence of ice and snow did not mean that the highway was out of repair. Removing ice and snow was a different kind of obligation which could be imposed on highway authorities only by Parliament. A highway authority’s duty under section 41(1) of the 1980 Act to maintain the highway was a duty to keep the fabric of the highway in such good repair as to render its physical condition safe for ordinary traffic to pass at all seasons of the year. It did not include a duty to prevent the formation of ice or remove an accumulation of snow on the road.
Lord Clyde said: ‘I have no difficulty in holding that Section 41 of the Highways Act, 1980 imposes an absolute duty on the highway authority. There is no hardship in so holding since the section has to be taken along with Section 58 which provides a defence that reasonable care has been taken by the authority. The scheme of the provisions is in its broad effect that the authority should be liable for damage caused by a failure to take reasonable care to maintain the highway, but the injured party is not required to prove the failure to take reasonable care. It is for the authority to prove that it has exercised all reasonable care. Such a reversal of the onus which would have been imposed on a plaintiff in an action for damages at common law is justifiable by the consideration that the plaintiff is not likely to know or be able to readily to ascertain in what respects the authority has failed in its duty. All that the plaintiff will know is that there is a defect in the road which has caused him injury and it is reasonable to impose on the authority the burden of explaining that they had exercised all reasonable care and should not be found liable. But the question in the case is precisely what is the meaning and scope of the absolute duty . . Maintenance certainly includes the work of repair and the taking of measures which will obviate the need to repair, to forestall the development of a defect in the road which will, if allowed to develop, require remedial action. The standard of maintenance is to be measured by considerations of safety. The obligation is to maintain the road so that it is safe for the passage of those entitled to use it. But the question still remains as to precisely what is the scope of that maintenance. It certainly requires that the highway be kept in a structurally sound condition. . . To use the words of Diplock, L.J. in Burnside -v- Emerson [1968] 1 WLR 1490 . . the obligation is to keep the highway ‘in such good repair as renders it reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the neighbourhood at all seasons of the year without danger caused by its physical condition.”

Lord Slynn of Hadley Lord Steyn Lord Hoffmann Lord Clyde Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough
Times 16-Jun-2000, Gazette 29-Jun-2000, [2000] UKHL 34, [2000] 3 All ER 603, [2000] 1 WLR 1356
House of Lords, House of Lords, House of Lords, Bailii
Highways Act 1980 41(1), Highways Act 1959
England and Wales
Appeal fromGoodes v East Sussex County Council CA 7-Jan-1999
A council which failed to maintain a road ice free when they had decided on the need to prevent icing, and had had the opportunity to prevent it, but failed to take it, were in breach of statutory duty and liable for damages to driver of crashed . .
CitedRegina v Heath QBD 1865
The highways board had sought and obtained an order against a householder who had built an extension part way over the highway. He had been orderd to pay costs but the taxed costs left a shortfall. The board now sought the difference from the . .
CitedCross v Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council CA 27-Jun-1997
The Council’s duty to maintain a highway is not absolute. It must take reasonable steps to prevent or clear ice forming on pathway. Lord Justice Evans analysed the application of Section 41 to a situation which arose from ice and snow. In any case . .
CitedHaydon v Kent County Council CA 1978
Impacted snow and ice had built up on a steep, narrow, made-up footpath from Monday to Thursday during a short wintry spell. The plaintiff slipped and broke her ankle. The highway authority operated a system of priorities. Their resources were fully . .
CitedRegina v Inhabitants of Greenhow 1876
A roadway had slipped down the hillside. At one point it was some 25ft below its former position. Though the material underneath was poor and unstable, it was repairable at a substantial cost to the inhabitants of the local borough.
Held: The . .
CitedFarrell v Alexander HL 24-Jun-1976
The House considered the construction of a consolidation Act.
Held: It is ordinarily both unnecessary and undesirable to construe a consolidation Act by reference to statutory antecedents, but it is permissible to do so in a case where the . .
CitedBurnside and Another v Emerson and Others CA 1968
The plaintiffs were injured in a road accident caused by flooding. They sued the executors of the deceased driver whose car spun out of control into the path of their own car, and also the highway authority, who had installed a proper system of . .
CitedGuardians of the Poor of the Union of Amesbury v Justices of the Peace of the County of Wiltshire QBD 1883
The removal of snow which obstructed the main roads of the district of a highway authority was an ‘expense incurred in the maintenance’ of the highways for the purposes of obtaining a contribution from the county under section 13. . .
CitedCowley v Newmarket Local Board HL 1892
No action in tort lay against highway authorities for a failure to repair a highway. They were no more liable than were the local inhabitants.
Lord Halsbury said: ‘We are to consider the scope and purpose of the statute, and in particular for . .
CitedGriffiths v Liverpool Corporation CA 1967
The Highways Act of 1961 had enlarged the duty of the highway authority and made it a general duty to take reasonable care to secure that the highway was not dangerous to traffic.
As to the effect of the 1961 Act, Diplock LJ said: ‘The duty at . .
CitedSlater v Worthington’s Cash Store Ltd 1941
The defendant property owner was held to be liable for failing to remove snow from his roof, so that a minor avalanche injured a passer-by on the pavement. . .
CitedSaunders v Holborn District Board of Works QBD 1895
Mr Saunders was injured when he slipped on an icy pavement, and claimed damages.
Held: A breach of the duty to remove snow did not give rise to a private law cause of action, any more than a breach of the duty to maintain the highway. Before . .
CitedActon District Council v London United Tramways KBD 1909
The court was asked whether the removal of four or five inches of snow from the tramway in Acton High Street was within the duty to maintain the highway imposed by section 28 of the Act of 1870.
Held: It was not. . .
CitedAttorney-General v Scott 1905
A highway authority should ‘maintain the road according to an up-to-date standard.’ . .
CitedDublin United Tramways Co Ltd v Martin Fitzgerald HL 1903
The plaintiff sued when his horse slipped on tramlines in the road and fell. Stone setts or paving between the rails of a tramway in Grafton Street, Dublin, had become slippery owing to the grit or roughness of setts being worn away. In that state, . .
CitedLatimer v AEC Limited HL 25-Jun-1953
The Appellant had recovered damages for injuries which he alleged had been the result of a failure on the part of the Respondents in their statutory duty to maintain one of the gangways in their works in an efficient state. He slipped on a factory . .

Cited by:
CitedRoe v Sheffield City Council and others CA 17-Jan-2003
The claimant sought damages after his car was involved in an accident when a wheel struck a part of a tramway standing proud of the road surface. The defendant argued that they were excused liability by the 1988 Act, incorporating the effects of the . .
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedFiona Thompson v Hampshire County Council CA 27-Jul-2004
The claimant fell into a ditch by a path on the highway in the dark. She appealed a finding of no liability on the highway authority.
Held: The authority’s responsibility was as to the surface structures of the road way and not as to the . .
CitedJane Marianne Sandhar, John Stuart Murray v Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions CA 5-Nov-2004
The claimant’s husband died when his car skidded on hoar frost. She claimed the respondent was liable under the Act and at common law for failing to keep it safe.
Held: The respondent had not assumed a general responsibility to all road users . .
CitedDepartment for Transport, Environment and the Regions v Mott Macdonald Ltd and others CA 27-Jul-2006
Claims arose from accidents caused by standing water on roadway surfaces after drains had not been cleared by the defendants over a long period of time. The Department appealed a decision giving it responsibility under a breach of statutory duty . .
CitedAli v The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council CA 17-Nov-2010
The claimant appealed against rejection of her claim for damages after slipping on a footpath maintainable by the defendant after an accumulation of mud and debris. The claim appeared to be the first under section 130, and the highway authority . .
CitedKing Lifting Ltd v Oxfordshire County Council QBD 20-Jul-2016
A heavy crane had toppled from a road. The crane owners said that the highway authority were responsible for the poor condition of the road.
Held: The action failed. The evidence did not support the assertion that the accident arose from a . .
CitedLondon Borough of Southwark and Another v Transport for London SC 5-Dec-2018
Question as to the meaning of the GLA Roads and Side Roads (Transfer of Property etc) Order 2000. When the highway was transferred was only the working surfaces, the road surface and the airspace and subsoil necessary for the operation, maintenance . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Road Traffic, Local Government

Updated: 10 December 2021; Ref: scu.80914