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Hampshire County Council (16 018 240)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about damage to his car caused by a pot hole. The courts are best placed to decide whether the Council is liable to Mr B for his claimed loss.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, struck a pot hole while driving along a highway. Mr B had to replace his tyre and wheel trim at a cost of around £300. He wants the Council to compensate him for his loss and to carry out repairs to the road.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  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 have considered the information Mr B provided when he made his complaint.

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What I found

  1. We do not normally investigate complaints about damage to property or injury to people arising from the use of the roads and pavements. This is because these complaints are really about whether the council has been negligent by not keeping the road or pavement in good condition. Negligence claims are generally best decided by a court. Only a court can decide whether:
    • the Council should have done something about the pavement before it caused Mr B harm;
    • there were any steps Mr B should have taken to avoid the harm; and
    • the Council is liable to pay “damages” for the loss and injury Mr B has suffered.
  2. While the Ombudsman has a general discretion to consider complaints where a person can go to court, I do not consider it is reasonable to exercise discretion in this case. This is because the court procedures are designed for people to take legal action themselves. Or Mr B may be able to get free legal advice from a solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau or law centre

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. The courts are best placed to decide if the Council is liable to Mr B for his losses.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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