Woman wins legal row with Wigan Council after tripping over exposed tree root

Abram Park
Abram Park

A woman has won a legal row with Wigan Council after she tripped over an exposed tree root on a “defective” public footpath.

The claimant, named as Deborah Barlow, has been successful at the high court after a previous judge ruled in favour of the town hall.

The dispute concerns an incident in which Ms Barlow tripped over a root on a path in Abram Park back in September last year, sustaining injuries.

Ms Barlow, who tried to claim for damages, lost her first case after the council argued that the route was not a highway “maintainable at public expense”.

In December 2018, HHJ Platts, a judge at Manchester County Court, sided with the town hall who argued that because the path was adopted as a highway and not constructed by them, it was not their responsibility to maintain.

The high court, presided over by Mr Justice Waksman, heard how the land had originally been purchased by the Abram Urban District Council back in 1920 and the path developed some time between the early 1930s and 1959.

According to a report published by the court, the path had been made in order to provide access to and across the amenities within the park.

During both hearings the council had argued that it was not acting as the “highway authority” when the path was created.

Although Judge Platts, the first judge, recognised that the route had become an official highway because it had been used as one so frequently over the course of decades, he could not conclude that it was maintainable at public expense.

After considering various case laws, Mr Justice Waksman at high court decided that the council had been the relevant local authority for the path since 1974, when it was created and Abram Urban District Council was dissolved.

He said that the council had also always been classed as a “highway

authority”.

A report published following the hearing, said: “It was found by the Judge and common ground on the appeal that the path was in a dangerous or defective

condition.

“As it appears to be common ground that if s36 applies, there has been a failure to maintain, it would follow that Ms Barlow must succeed on liability.”

Brendan Whitworth, assistant director for legal services at Wigan Council said: “Having successfully defended the case we are disappointed at the decision to over-turn that decision.

“Although the judge has decided to grant the appeal, we are continuing conversations internally to decide a way forward.”