Rance v Essex County Council: CA 21 Feb 1997

Appeal against refusal of claim against highway authority. The appellant was injured when her car crashed. A high volume of heavy goods vehicles had been using a local road, damaging the road and verges. Though the road was wide enough for her car to pass a lorry coming toward her, the appellant held to her side, and the nearside wheels fell into the damaged verge. On freeing the car from the rut, it careered across the road colliding with a tree and causing the injury. Locals had complained about the unsafe condition of the road to the respondent, the responsible highway authority.
Held: The appeal failed. Though the judge had erred in the way he had applied the case of Griffiths, a minor breach of he code of practice need not of itself create liability in the Council, and there was evidence which supported his conclusions.
Beldam LJ said: ‘section 58(2) requires the court in particular to have regard to certain matters in deciding whether the authority has in fact discharged the burden of showing a defence under section 58: First, the character of the highway and the traffic which might reasonably be expected to use it; secondly, the standard of maintenance appropriate for a highway of that character; thirdly, the state of repair that the reasonable person would have expected to find the highway in; and, fourthly, whether the highway authority knew or could reasonably have been expected to know that the condition of that part of the highway would be likely to cause danger to users of the highway, and where the highway authority could not reasonably have been expected to repair that part of the highway before the cause of action arose, what notices of its condition had been displayed.
Applying those considerations to this case and observing the nature and condition of this road from the photographs which were before the Judge, it seems to me that this road was not in an unexpected condition for a road of its type. The presence of worn verges with ruts at either side is not unusual in the roads in our country districts, particularly now that they are used by many vehicles for which they are quite unsuitable in many instances.’


Beldam, Otton LJJ


[1997] EWCA Civ 1064




Highways Act 1980 41 58


England and Wales


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 . .
CitedRider 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 . .
CitedMills 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Road Traffic

Updated: 17 July 2022; Ref: scu.141460