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Derby City Council (20 011 556)

Category : Environment and regulation > Trees

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about damage to the complainants car, caused by a branch falling from a tree. This is because the matter of liability can only be determined by insurers or the courts.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall refer to as Miss C, complains that the Council failed to maintain a tree outside her property, resulting in a branch falling from the tree and damaging her car. Miss C wants the Council to compensate her for this damage.

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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 also 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 have considered Miss C’s complaint and the Council’s response. I have invited Miss C to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Miss C contacted the Council to make a claim for damage caused to her vehicle. She said her husband had previously asked for a tree that overhangs her driveway to be cut back but did not receive a response. Miss C said the following month a branch fell from the tree, damaging her car.
  2. The Council’s insurers considered Miss C’s application but rejected her claim that the Council were liable for the damage to her car.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because the matter of liability for damage to Miss C’s vehicle is a matter for insurers and the courts.
  2. Miss C has made a claim against the Council’s insurers, as that claim has been rejected, she can take the matter to court. The Court can decide liability and if Miss C is entitled to damages.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the issue of liability is a matter that can be decided in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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