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Tripping Claims Under s.41 Highways Act

Littler v. Liverpool Corporation [1968] 2 All ER 343

The onus on a Highway Authority must not be oppressive:

Uneven surfaces and differences in level between flagstones of about an inch may cause a pedestrian temporarily off balance to trip and stumble, but such characteristics have to be accepted, A highway is not to be judged by the standards of a bowling green.”

This generally gave rise to the traditional view that defects of less than an inch should not generally be actionable. This case was distinguished by:

Pitman v. Southern Electricity Board [1978] 3 All ER 901

A defect of 1/8” (approximately 3mm) in depth was held to be actionable. A metal plate by altering the condition and level of the pavement had introduced a new and unexpected hazard which constituted a potential danger to users of the pavement, thus the Judge at first instance had been entitled to find the Defendant liable.

Mills v. Barnsley MBC [1992] PIQR 291

In the leading case in these type of claims, the Court of Appeal said that the three things a claimant must prove in order to succeed in an action under section 41 are:



    1. The highway was in such a condition that danger from its use might reasonably have been anticipated in the ordinary course of human affairs;

    2. The dangerous condition was caused by a failure to maintain; and

    3. The injury resulted from that failure.


Pridham v. Hemel Hempstead Corporation (1970) 69 LGR 523

If a highway authority had, after sufficiently careful consideration, adopted a system of inspection and maintenance that had been properly implemented then it would be likely to make out the statutory defence under section 58 of the Highways Act.

February 28, 2011 · Editorial Team · Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases