Casual Walk, Then Injury – So Who's Liable?


On 6 March 2011, Trevor Smith was walking along the pavement at Henniker Gardens towards the junction of Geoffrey Gardens in East Ham, London, when he tripped over an open manhole from which the cover was missing.

Tripped over a manhole cover

After landing heavily on his left leg and arm, the civil servant, then 45, immediately attended Newham Hospital, where injuries to his left leg, left arm, neck and shoulder were diagnosed. Since the incident Mr Smith has also encountered great difficulties in sleeping.


Acting for Mr Smith against the London Borough of Newham, Simpson Millar LLP's Lisa Sheldon said: "As the local highways authority, Newham council have a duty to repair and maintain the public highway. The missing manhole cover was clearly a foreseeable hazard."

We wrote to the council alleging that it had failed to adequately maintain and repair the highway, thus making it unsafe for pedestrians; had failed to place fencing around the open manhole; and neglected to warn passers-by of the problem by way of signs or safety measures.

Accident Waiting to Happen

Lisa added: "Since the Henniker Gardens route is frequently used by pedestrians, Mr Smith's mishap was an accident waiting to happen."

Client Happy with Service

Following a successful claim for compensation and a settlement of £2,800, Mr Smith expressed how he was, "very happy with the service from start to finish, very good advice all the way".

Mr Smith added that legal advice is essential for those hurt after accidents that were not their fault.

Top Tips to Take Away

  • If you have an accident whilst out and about and it is clearly not your fault, you should seek legal advice
  • If you accident is due to a public highway fault, the council may well be liable

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