Haydon 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 taken up with sanding and gritting roads, but on the Wednesday evening one of their workmen reported the dangerous state of the particular path to them, and they took prompt action next morning, but not in time to prevent the plaintiff’s accident.
Held: The authority was liable. The duty to maintain the highway in section 44(1) included removing snow and ice and taking such protective measures as would render highways and paths safe for vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather conditions.
Lord Denning (dissenting): ”Repair’ means making good defects in the surface of the highway itself so as to make it reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the neighbourhood at all seasons of the year without danger caused by its physical condition. That is the combined effect of the statements of Blackburn J. in Reg. v. Inhabitants of High Halden (1859) 1 F. and F. 678; of Diplock L.J. in Burnside v. Emerson [1968] 1 W.L.R. 1490, 1497 and Cairns L.J. in Worcestershire County Council v. Newman [1975] 1 W.L.R. 901, 911. Thus deep ruts in cart roads, potholes in carriage roads, broken bridges on footpaths or bushes rooted in the surface make all the highways ‘out of repair’.’ The statutory definition does not imply that ‘maintain’ has a wider meaning than ‘repair’, and that given the legislation history the cause of action which an injured person has under the 1961 Act was limited to ‘non-repair’ of a highway, and did not include other cases. On the extent of that duty: ‘In my opinion, therefore, the duty in section 44 of the Act of 1959 ‘to maintain the highway’ is the equivalent of the duty at common law and in the Act of 1835 ‘to repair and keep in repair.’ It means that whenever there is a defect in the surface of the highway, the highway authority is under a duty to repair it. But it does not mean that the highway authority is under a duty to remove snow or ice whenever it makes the highway slippery or dangerous. I adhere, therefore, to the view I expressed in Burnside v. Emerson [1968] 1 W.L.R. 1490, 1494: ‘. . . an icy patch in winter or an occasional flooding at any time is not in itself evidence of a failure to maintain’.
Goff L.J said that the highway authority would be in breach of duty only if: ‘having regard to the nature and importance of the way, sufficient time [has] elapsed to make it prima facie unreasonable for the authority to have failed to take remedial measures. Then the authority is liable unless it is able to make out the statutory defence.’

Lord Denning MR, Goff and Shaw LJJ
[1978] QB 343, [1978] 2 All ER 97
Highways Act 1959 44(1), Highways Act 1961
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Inhabitants of High Halden 1859
The court considered the liability of the parish for injury arising from a failure to repair the road. The road was ‘an old soft road formed of Weald of Kent clay, and had never been repaired with hard substances’. The evidence was that in wet . .
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 . .
CitedHereford and Worcester County Council v Newman CA 1975
The council had been found responsible by the magistrates for allowing footpaths to be ‘out of repair’. The paths were unusable for various reasons including having a hawthorn hedge growing down the middle, and having barbed wire fencing strung . .

Cited by:
ConsideredStovin v Wise (Norfolk City Council, 3rd party) CA 16-Feb-1994
A road user was injured on a corner which was known to the highway authority to be dangerous. The authority had sought to make arrangements with the owner of land adjoining the highway to remove a bank which obstructed the view.
Held: 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 . .
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 . .
CitedThoburn v Northumberland County Council CA 19-Jan-1999
The claimant alleged that the defendant by allowing a flood across a road not to be cleared was in breach of their statutory duty under the 1980 Act.
Held: Though the blockage was not entirely on the Highway, the nature and extent of it was . .
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 . .
CitedGoodes 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 . .
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 . .
CitedPritchard v Clwyd County Council CA 16-Jun-1992
The plaintiff was injured wading through a flooded street. She claimed damages alleging a failure to maintain the storm water sewers. The defendants appealed a finding that they were responsible, and she appealed a contributory negligence . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Transport, Personal Injury, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.180995