Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (19 021 201)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint that the Council has refused to accept liability for an injury she suffered due to a pothole in the highway. This is because it would be reasonable for her to take the matter to court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Ms B, complains that the Council has refused to accept liability for an injury she suffered which was caused by a pothole in the highway.

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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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Ms B has said in support of her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Ms B says she tripped when she stepped into a pothole in the highway. She says she suffered a broken ankle. She wants the Council to apologise and reimburse her for expenses she has incurred due to the injury. She complains that the Council has denied that the highway required repair.
  2. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint. The key matter is whether the Council has been negligent in failing to maintain the highway. Negligence is a matter for the courts, not the Ombudsman, and the Council is entitled to defend itself from negligence claims in court.
  3. If Ms B wishes to establish that the Council is liable for her injury, she may make a claim against it. If it denies liability, it would be reasonable for her to pursue the matter in court. The Ombudsman will not intervene.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would be reasonable for Ms B to pursue the matter in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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