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Hampshire County Council (17 018 647)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about personal injury as it is reasonable to expect Mrs Y to take court action against the Council for the compensation she seeks. Mrs Y’s complaint is also made late.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs Y, complains the Council has refused to accept liability for injuries she sustained after a fall.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mrs Y said in her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mrs Y complains the Council has refused to accept liability for injuries she suffered after falling. Mrs Y says she tripped over a metal rim round a tree that was growing from the pavement.

Analysis

  1. Mrs Y’s has the right to take legal action against the Council by making a small claim in the county court. As this right exists, the complaint is outside our legal remit.
  2. We can disapply this restriction if we consider it is not reasonable to expect Mrs Y to take court action.
  3. There is a simple, low cost procedure open to anyone to make a small claim in the county court. In addition, ultimately, only the court can decide if the Council is legally liable for Mrs Y’s injuries and if compensation should be paid.
  4. For these reasons, we consider it is reasonable to expect Mrs Y to take legal action and we will not therefore exercise discretion to investigate.
  5. In addition to this, Mrs Y’s complaint is also made late to us.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint as Mrs Y can take court action against the Council. We consider it reasonable to expect Mrs Y to do this. The complaint is therefore outside our legal remit and we will not exercise discretion to investigate. Mrs Y’s complaint is also made late to us.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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