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Articles | Wed 7th Jul, 2021
Last week the High Court handed down its decision in the case of O’Connor v Luton Borough Council  EWHC 1691 (QB).
The Claimant (“C”) was a motorcyclist who sustained serious injuries in September 2016. As she was leaving a petrol station, she lost control of her motorbike and accelerated across the road into the path of an oncoming car. She suffered significant injuries, including a head injury which left her with no recollection of the accident. Her case, based on evidence from a group of motorcyclists whom she had been aiming to join as she pulled out of the petrol station, was that the accident had been caused by the dangerous condition of the road. One of the motorcyclists asserted that as the claimant pulled out, the back wheel of her motorcycle dropped into a pothole in the road close to the kerb, causing the front wheel to rise up and propelling the motorcycle into the path of the car. A few days after the accident, the claimant’s children sent the highway authority photographs of the pothole. The highway authority immediately carried out temporary repairs, with more permanent repairs following in 2017 and 2018. From the photographs, the parties’ experts agreed that the pothole was about 200mm wide, 200-300mm long and 40-50mm deep.
The central issue was whether it was the pothole which caused the claimant to lose control of her motorcycle and, if it was, whether it rendered the highway dangerous to traffic.
The case came before Martin Spencer J for the trial of the issue of liability. After four days of evidence, including evidence from accident reconstruction experts, motorcycle handling experts and highways engineers, the Court found that C had not ridden over the area of defective paving as suggested by some witnesses.
The Court went on to find that, even had C ridden over the pothole, the defect itself was not dangerous. In coming to that conclusion Martin Spencer J made a number of helpful observations that defendants would do well to bear in mind when defending highways claims:
A copy of the judgment can be found here.
Ian Clarke represented the successful Defendant
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