When a man slipped on ice in a Swansea car park and sustained injuries, he brought a case against the council alleging that his injuries had resulted from a failure to grit the car park, which he claimed was a breach of its obligations under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 to keep it safe.
The council’s policy was to apply grit when it was made aware that there was a danger (for example, being warned by a member of the public or car park staff), not to proactively seek to prevent such problems. The man argued that this was insufficient to discharge the council’s duty of care to its car park users.
When the lower court ruled in favour of the council, the man appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the original decision. In the Court’s view, a requirement to grit all its car parks when icy conditions were reported would be a disproportionate obligation on the council. Users of the car parks should exercise care when conditions are icy and the alternative of the council closing its car parks when weather became inclement would also be impractical.
Says Jason Claridge “Councils have to perform a balancing act between keeping public spaces safe and providing services and facilities relied upon by the local population. In this instance, the council successfully argued that it had discharged its obligations. Had the accident occurred as a result of the council delaying in taking action after being made aware that there was a risk to the public, the outcome might well have been different.”