Gillian (we have changed her name) on 19 November 2015 was walking along Tooley Street next to London Bridge Station during the rush hour when she tripped over the raised edge of a paving stone.
She suffered a fractured right wrist and severe injuries to her face which left permanent scarring.
Because Tooley Street is part of the Red Route Network the responsible authority for maintenance of the pavement was Transport for London. TfL denied liability. They argued that their maintenance records showed that Tooley Street was subject to weekly inspections to identify any defects on the pavement and that any such defects identified were repaired promptly.
As part of their defence, TfL disclosed before any proceedings were issued their maintenance records. The records demonstrated that the defective paving stone had been subject to repairs four days before on 15 November 2015. The TfL contractors responsible as part of their documentation had taken photographs of the pavement which enabled the precise paving stone to be identified as the same one responsible for our client's accident.
In the face of the denial of liability, on behalf of our client we issued Court proceedings in the County Court alleging that the paving stone had been negligently repaired on 15 November 2015 and but for that the paving would not have been standing proud presenting a danger to pedestrians when our client tripped over its edge a few days later. TfL submitted a defence speculating that the pavement may have been subject to movement by heavy vehicles parking up on the pavement during deliveries to local shops. This, however, was improbable given that the pavement was near to a bus stop and on a Red Route and without any obvious retail outlets nearby.
The compensation payment included a sum for remedial facial surgery to improve the appearance of the scarring.
Practice point: Local authorities responsible for the maintenance of public pavements are provided with a statutory defence under the Highways Act 1980 where they can demonstrate that they have a reasonable system of maintenance and inspection in place. Such a defence, however, will not save them where there is evidence as in this case that the maintenance was negligently performed. It was our submission that on the balance of probabilities a Court would have found that a paving stone should not have been rocking out of alignment within four days of repairs whose purpose was to prevent such rocking and ensure that the pavement was reasonably safe for pedestrians.