The High Court has clarified the legal obligation on Local Authorities in relation to pavements. This clarification was contained in the Judgment of the High Court in a case called Olive Loughrey – v – Dun Laoghaire County Council. In that case, Ms. Loughrey sustained very significant personal injuries when she was caused to trip on a footpath in Dun Laoghaire. She went on to develop significant pain in her wrist and left shoulder.
The law in Ireland is that a Local Authority is not liable for their failure to maintain footpaths however negligent that failure may have been.
What this means is that the Local Authority are liable in damages for injuries suffered by a road user if they have been negligent in doing repairs or in interfering with the road. They are not liable for injuries suffered or caused by the want of repair of a road. That is the familiar distinction – they are liable for misfeasance and not for nonfeasance.
In this case the Plaintiff claimed that she had tripped because of a difference in the levels of slabs on the footpath which levels were measured as between 5mm and 6mm. The Plaintiff’s Engineer gave evidence that it was his view that the slabs were improperly laid and this was caused by defective workmanship and as a result was a tripping hazard which was dangerous.
Engineer’s on behalf of the Local Authority disputed the Plaintiff’s expert evidence. The Judge stated that for the Plaintiff to win her case she must show misfeasance. The Judge held that the Plaintiff had established that the differential of between 5mm and 6mm was a tripping hazard to the Plaintiff, a sort of a hidden trap or danger which resulted in the Plaintiff being entitled to succeed against the Defendants.
In assessing damages in that case the Judge awarded the Plaintiff the total sum of €260,000 in damages to include sums for general damages for personal injuries and loss of earnings.