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Leicestershire County Council (17 018 966)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about damage to his car caused by loose stone chippings on a newly dressed road. The courts are better placed to decide if the Council has been negligent and is liable to pay damages to Mr B.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, says the Council’s road dressing work has left loose stones on the road surface. Mr B says the loose stones have damaged his and his wife’s cars and it will cost £5000 to return his car to its original condition. Mr B wants the Council to sweep the road and remove all loose stones and to pay for the damage to his car.

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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. I sent a draft decision to Mr B and invited comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr B has complained to the Council about the condition of the road surface and the damage to his car. He has explained he takes a different route home to avoid the problem and his sleep is affected by the aggravation.
  2. The Council has carried out further road sweeping and its insurers have considered Mr B’s compensation claim. The insurers have denied liability for the damage to Mr B’s car.
  3. While Mr B is unhappy with the way the Council has carried out the work to the road and dealt with his subsequent claim, the Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint.
  4. 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.
  5. As Mr B can take the matter to court, the restriction in paragraph 3 applies. It is reasonable to expect Mr B to use his 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 Mr B claims
    • there were any steps Mr B should have taken to avoid the harm; and
    • the Council is liable to pay damages to Mr B for the damage to his and wife’s cars.
  6. Mr 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 the courts are better placed to decide if the Council has been negligent and is liable to pay damages to Mr B.

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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