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Scarborough Borough Council (19 018 698)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 14 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs X’s complaint about a personal injury claim. This is because it is reasonable for them to seek compensation through the courts.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs X, complain about an injury Mrs X suffered from a fall on the public highway. Mr and Mrs X want the Council to pay compensation. They are unhappy with how long it is taking the Council to process their claim.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mr and Mrs X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information they provided. I also gave Mr and Mrs X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before issuing a final decision on their complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs X complain about an injury Mrs X suffered from a fall on the public highway. They say the fall was due to seagull excrement. The Council has so far failed to process their claim.
  2. The role of the Ombudsman is to consider complaints about administrative fault. We cannot establish liability in complaints involving personal injury. These are a matter for the Council’s insurers and, ultimately, for the courts.
  3. If the Council’s insurers reject Mr and Mrs X’s request for damages, it is open to them to make a claim in court. I consider it would be reasonable for them to do so. This is because only the Court can decide if the Council has been negligent. The Court can decide what damages, if any, the Council should pay.
  4. Mr and Mrs X are unhappy with how the Council has dealt with their claim and the length of time taken to process it. The Ombudsman will not investigate a council’s complaint or claim handling if we are not going to look at the original issue which led to the complaint. This applies here.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs X’s complaint. This is because it is reasonable for Mr and Mrs X to use the legal remedy available to them.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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