The claimant, a fireman, sought damages for injuries suffered when he was injured answering a call out. He fell into a depressed area by the road side as he was pulling away a burning wooden pallet.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. The court overturned a finding of dangerousness.
Laws LJ stressed that the statutory highway repairing duty, defined in Burnside, was significantly less stringent than a duty to repair every defect in the highway which might foreseeably cause harm, and ‘The judge noted the minimal use of the path, the good state of repair of the made-up area, its ample width for passing and repassing, and the fact that the erosion on the river side of the path was perfectly obvious. Given all those factors and the others to which I have referred he was in my judgment entitled to find as he did that no works of repair were reasonably required. That is so, as it seems to me, despite what is undoubtedly a considerable drop at the point where the erosion is to be seen in the pictures.’
Laws LJ said: ‘Section 41 has been said to impose an absolute duty, but the term ‘absolute’ in my opinion has with respect to be treated with care. There is a risk of it suggesting that the duty is to maintain the highway to such a standard as in effect to guarantee the safety of its users, and it is plain that that is by no means the measure of the duty; it is absolute only in the sense that it is not merely a duty to take reasonable care but to maintain the highway to an objective standard. The statute does not state what the standard is. The authorities, however, are as it seems to me clear as to the nature of this standard. The highway has to be maintained in such a state of repair that it is reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the neighbourhood without danger caused by its physical condition.’
Laws, Longmore, Richards LJJ
 EWCA Civ 1497,  RTR 13
England and Wales
Cited – Nicholson v The Southern Railway Company 1935
There may be liability on a highway authority under the highways Acts, in the event that a person slips off the edge of a highway. . .
Cited – Griffiths 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 . .
Cited – Rider v Rider CA 1973
The plaintiff was a passenger in a car which her husband was driving and which collided with a van. The husband had been driving too fast. The edge of the tarmac on the road abutted grass verges at a lower level and the edge had been inadequately . .
Cited – Mills v Barnsley Borough Council CA 1992
The court considered the extent of defect in a highway needed to found a claim that it was dangerous. It emphasised that the duty must not be made too high, balancing the public need against the private interest.
Steyn LJ said: ‘For my part I . .
Cited – Goodes 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 . .
Cited – Cenet v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council QBD 26-Jun-2008
Swift J stated that the highway must be ‘free of danger to all users who use the highway in a way normally expected of them’. . .
Cited – James v Preseli District Council CA 1992
In the context of an alleged failure to maintain a highway, the question in each case is whether the particular spot where the claimant tripped or fell was dangerous: ‘if the particular spot was not dangerous, then it is irrelevant that there were . .
Cited – West Sussex County Council v Russell CA 12-Feb-2010
The council appealed against a finding that it had failed in its duty to keep the highway safe leading to an accident in which the claimant was severely injured. The road was narrow, and a significant drop had developed by the edge of the road. The . .
Cited – Griffiths v Gwynedd County Council CA 22-Oct-2015
The claimant cyclist was injured on being thrown from his bicycle going downhill, by a defect in the road. He appealed against a decision that the defect was not a danger. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 22 July 2022; Ref: scu.279973