Court of Appeal
Pleadings in a claim for damages for breach of duty and nuisance disclosed no cause of action as the Highways Act 1980 s.130 did not give rise to a civil action for damages as it was concerned with the protection of the legal rights of the public at large, and placed no express obligation on a highway authority to remove obstructions.
The appellant (X) appealed against a ruling in a claim for breach of duty and nuisance against the respondent local authority that her pleadings disclosed no cause of action.
X had slipped and fallen on steps leading to a footpath. The steps had been covered with mud, overgrown vegetation and rubbish. It was X's case that the condition of the footpath had been neglected by the local authority. Her claim was based on breach of duty under the Highways Act 1980 s.130 and nuisance. The judge, as a preliminary issue, ruled that X's pleadings disclosed no cause of action. That decision was upheld on appeal.
HELD: (1) Parliament had not intended for s.130 to give rise to a civil action for damages. Section 130 was concerned with the protection of the legal rights of the public at large. The rights in question were the rights of the general public to use the public highway. Section 130 was not about the safety of the condition of the highway. It placed no express obligation on the highway authority to remove obstructions and there was no justification for the implication of such an obligation, especially as express provision was made about the duty of a highway authority to remove obstructions in s.150. Haydon v Kent CC  Q.B. 343, Gorringe v Calderdale MBC  UKHL 15,  1 W.L.R. 1057 and Goodes v East Sussex CC  1 W.L.R. 1356 considered (see paras 31-33 of the judgment). (2) To require highway authorities to carry out regular precautionary inspections of public footpaths of all descriptions to see that they were kept free from obstructions would have substantial economic implications for local authorities. For the courts to impose a liability through the law of nuisance would be to use a blunt instrument to interfere with a carefully regulated statutory scheme and would usurp the proper role of Parliament (see paras 39-40).
 PTSR 1534 :  3 All ER 348 :  RTR 20 :  PIQR P6
William Meade (Senior Clerk)