Snow and Ice: On Holiday and at Home - Tripping or Slipping Accident

21 January 2014

As temperatures plummet, what is the law relating to icy pavements?

Two cases highlight the duty of local councils to pedestrians, and employers to employees.

 

Fernquest v City and Council of Swansea [2011] EWCA Civ 1712, [2012] All ER (D) 82 (Feb)

The facts were that Mr Fernquest slipped on an icy pavement a few paces from where he had alighted from a park and ride bus run by Swansea Council. The trial judge accepted the Council ran a proper gritting scheme, and it had not been negligent to operate the park and ride bus service due to the weather conditions. However, the trial judge found that the Council should have warned Mr Fernquest there was ice on the pavement before he got off the bus, and failing to do so was a breach of duty of care.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the trial judge. Although it was agreed that the hazard was not only foreseeable but that it had been foreseen by the council, the Court of Appeal held it was neither fair, just nor reasonable to impose such a duty in the circumstances: "To say that bus companies should be liable to compensate passengers who fall near bus stops shortly after alighting because of ice on the pavements of which the bus company had knowledge but of which it failed to warn its passengers before boarding would, to my mind, be a considerable extension of liability in the tort of negligence."

It was also relevant that the hazard was not particularly unusual and was one of which members of the public could have been expected to have been aware.

 

Foreseeable risk of slipping on a frosty pavement does not make it unsafe.

On 14th January 2014, Mr Justice Horner dismissed a claim brought against a local Belfast Primary School brought by a teacher who had slipped and fallen on an icy footpath during a walk with school pupils. Delivering judgement Mr Justice Horner stated "A frequent complaint is made that the present rick adverse culture makes it difficult for schools and other institutions to carry out many activities that they carried out in the past. Reasonable care does not guarantee there will never be an accident."

 

If you have had a tripping or slipping accident, and need advice, please contact Andrew Burke of our office at andrewburke@murphy-orawe.com    

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