fbpx

Landowners' Duties and Highway Visibility – Court of Appeal Test Case

24th August 2018 By Arman Khosravi

If landowners allow vegetation to grow so that it affects visibility on adjacent highways, should they be held liable if accidents occur? In a decision that broke new legal ground, the Court of Appeal has answered that question with a resounding ‘no’.

The case concerned an accident in which a cyclist who was riding on a trunk road collided with a car that had emerged from a minor road. The badly injured cyclist’s damages claim against the driver has yet to be tried, but the driver’s insurers launched pre-emptive contribution proceedings against a local authority and the Welsh Ministers, who bore responsibility for the roads as highway authorities.

It was argued that vegetation that had been allowed to grow up on a plot of land that had been acquired by the Welsh Ministers in order to perform drainage improvement works had obscured visibility at the junction and was the reasonably foreseeable cause of the accident. The contribution proceedings were, however, struck out by a judge on the basis that neither public authority owed a relevant duty of care to the injured cyclist.

He reached that conclusion on the basis that only a small part of the vegetation had grown on or over the highway. To impose a duty of care in such circumstances would be excessively burdensome on owners of land adjacent to highways and would substantially affect the uses to which they could put their holdings.

The insurers argued that it was artificial to draw a distinction between hazards on the highway itself and conditions on land adjacent to the highway that affect road safety.

In dismissing the insurers’ appeal, however, the Court noted that no decided case had been identified where an owner of land adjoining a highway had been held to owe a duty of care to road users in respect of vegetation on that land, or indeed of any comparable obstruction.

There were very powerful policy reasons militating against the imposition of such a duty of care. Farmers would need to consider highway visibility when deciding when to plant crops, hedges and trees and when to harvest, prune or fell them. Similar issues would arise in relation to the planting of suburban gardens and the erection of buildings, fences or other structures next to roads. Planning controls and the powers of highway authorities provide a range of public law options for dealing with road visibility issues, and it is not for the Court to supplement them by imposing an onerous duty of care on landowners.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Award That Requires Borrowing Made Into Court Order

17th May, 2024 By

Disagreements between separating couples all too often result in litigation that substantially reduces the assets available to them, as was illustrated by a case that recently reached the High Court. At issue was whether awards made by arbitrators in financial remedy proceedings can be made into court orders even if that would require one of the parties to borrow money. The couple had previously had a relationship lasting a few years before resuming their relationship in 2015. They had two children before separating again in 2019. Following their separation, the...

Inheritance Disputes – Costs Risks Can Be Reduced

15th May, 2024 By

Arguments about what someone promised before their death can lead to significant legal costs. However, if faced with a claim against the estate, there may be steps the beneficiaries or executors can take to reduce the risks, as a recent High Court case illustrated. A man had left a farmhouse and agricultural land in Cornwall to his wife, with whom he had also jointly owned a neighbouring area of land. After his death, one of the couple's daughters and her husband claimed that he had told them he wanted them...

Share Rounding Error Does Not Prevent CGT Relief

13th May, 2024 By

There are often very specific rules that must be complied with in order to claim tax reliefs, but if a small mistake arises, the courts may be able to provide assistance. In a recent case, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that an investor was entitled to Entrepreneurs' Relief on the disposal of his shares in a company, despite owning one share fewer than he needed to qualify for it. The investor had agreed to purchase 5 per cent of the shares in the company for £500,000. He wished to own...

Wife Entitled to Maintenance Until Sale of Family Home

10th May, 2024 By

When divorcing couples disagree on how assets should be divided, the courts will seek to arrive at a fair outcome for both parties. In deciding how the proceeds of sale of a former couple's home should be apportioned, the Family Court agreed with the wife that she should receive maintenance payments until the sale took place. The couple had married in 2006. Following a brief separation, they had reconciled for two years before finally separating in 2022. The husband and wife both contended that they should be entitled to about...