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Clearing the Roads of Ice
Take care in the cold!

For many years it has been the practice to sue a highway authority when an accident occurs, and injury caused, which can be fairly attributed to ice having appeared on the road. The argument, established and confirmed by authority, was that the various Highways Acts from 1959 onwards had imposed a statutory duty on a highway authority to remove ice and snow within a very short, often impossibly short, time of it appearing.

The duty first appeared in its current exact form in the Highways Act 1959, and was re-consolidated in the 1980 Act.

In the case of Goodes v East Sussex County Council HL 15 June 2000 (Times 16 Jun 2000), Lord Hoffman examined the history and precedents. He said that in history there had been no such duty, that the Acts were merely consolidating acts, and therefore could create no new duty, and therefore no such duty now existed.

The words at issue were the authority's duty to 'repair and maintain; the surface of the road. He said that such works might include removal of ice, but that no general statutory duty to remove ice and snow as it formed could be inferred from those words.

Large swathes of personal injury lawyers having taken on no win no fee cases on the basis of the law as previously stated, must now be standing head bowed and shame faced before their bank managers, and cries of 'yippee' can be heard rising from local authority highway committees as they slash the gritting budgets.

Well, perhaps not.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
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18 October 2013 http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/litIcyRoads.shtml 315 18 October 2013