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Sheffield City Council (17 018 363)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about injuries she suffered when she fell on an uneven drain cover in the road. The courts are best placed to consider a personal injury claim.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms B, suffered an injury to her ankle when she tripped on an uneven drain cover in the road. Ms B says she badly sprained her ankle and it took over two months to fully recover. Ms B seeks compensation for her injuries and for the Council to act to repair the drain cover.

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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 Ms B provided when she made her complaint. I sent a draft decision to Ms B and considered her response before making my final decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms B has explained she was injured in November 2017. She complained to the Council and made a compensation claim.
  2. The Council inspected the road the day after receiving Ms B’s complaint. Its highway contactors have considered Ms B’s claim for compensation and denied liability for her injuries.
  3. While Ms B is unhappy with the outcome of her complaint, the Ombudsman will not investigate this matter. The Ombudsman will not normally investigate complaints about damage to property or injury to people arising from use of roads and pavements. This is because these complaints are about whether a council has been negligent by not keeping a road in good condition. Negligence claims are generally best decided by a court.
  4. As Ms B can take the matter to court, the restriction in paragraph 3 applies. It is reasonable to expect Ms B to use her right of remedy in the courts because only a court can decide whether:
    • the problem should have been dealt with by the Council before it caused the harm Ms B claims
    • there were any steps Ms B should have taken to avoid the harm; and
    • the Council is liable to pay damages to Ms B for the injury she suffered.
  5. Ms B may be able to get free legal advice from a solicitor, advice centre or law centre and the court procedures are designed to make it possible for people to take legal action themselves.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is reasonable to expect Ms B to use her right to go to court.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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