Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 26 Mar 2015
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s failure to pay the cost of damage to her car caused by a pothole in the public highway. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about faults by councils but she cannot determine claims about damage to property or personal injury. These matters can only be decided by insurers or the courts.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s refusal to pay for damage caused to her car by a pothole in the road surface.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The law says the Ombudsman cannot investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, she may decide to investigate if she considers it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)c)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information which Mrs X submitted with her complaint.
What I found
- Mrs X says a deep water-filled pothole in the highway damaged her car in January. She says the same hole also caused damage to other cars and as it was dark she could not avoid it. Mrs X made a claim against the Council for the damage which amounted to over £400. The Council sent the claim to its insurers.
- The Council’s insurers rejected Mrs X’s claim. The Council says the road is regularly inspected and there is no record of the pothole on the previous inspection. No member of the public had reported it so it could not respond until Mrs X reported her accident.
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about administrative faults by councils but she is unable to resolve claims about damage or injury caused by negligence. These matters can only be resolved by insurers or the small claims court. The courts can and do consider questions of liability for damage to property (or harm or injury to people) so there is no reason why Mrs X should not pursue her claim in the courts
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. It is reasonable for Mrs X to pursue the matter in the small claims court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman