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January 2006 - Liability of Local Authorities

 
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dominic h-m
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 10:36 am    Post subject: January 2006 - Liability of Local Authorities Reply with quote

Question:

To what end should Parish Councils have to consider the protection of the individual when a potential harm arises?

This is an important legal question that has been the main bone of contention in a recent court case regarding a man who fell over on Local Authority land whilst taking a short-cut back from the pub. I can already imagine what most of you are thinking - why on earth should someone sue a local authority (of which Parish Councils are the most numerous type) for falling over and injuring themselves when they are drunk?

Well, the answer is a rather depressing one. Local Authorities are the most 'sued' institutions in the country. This is because of the fact that:

They offer many services that could potentially land them with a 'duty of care' to an individual.
They are publicly funded / indemnified - so they can 'afford' to pay the cost of the claim should the claimant succeed.
It is an upsetting state of affairs, but one that Parish Councils cannot afford to ignore. The case in question, which admittedly was against a Borough Council (Maloney v Torfaen County Borough Council [2006]) actually went all the way to the Law Lords to decide, who eventually stated that the facts of the Claimant's drunkeness could be taken into consideration. The result of this was that the claim failed, and the Local Authority did not have to pay for Mr Maloney's injury. However, it was a close-run thing, and what is more, it was very time-consuming and troublesome for the Local Authority.

It has long been the tradition in England and Wales for Local Authorities to have a form of 'public immunity' from claims such as this, but more and more they are being forced to accept that they have got a case to answer when someone injures themselves on Council property, or perhaps even a planning decision does not go their way when it reasonably should have done.

The problem facing Parish Councils is one of resources. They are not large institutions such as District, Borough or County Councils, and do not always have the legal staff that they require. Add to this the fact that the Government is giving more and more responsibility to Parish Councils and you have a time-bomb of potential claims against Councils.

However, it is not all bleak. There are organisations who are there to offer help and support to Parish and Town Councils, and without question the one to contact first in all instances is the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), who have free legal resources for Parish Councils should the need arise.

Parish Councils are therefore increasingly at risk from litigation, but Councillors should not be too worried, as expert help and support is close at hand.
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angie456
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a very informative posting. Many thanks.

I did wonder if there are any cases of people actually suing Parish Councils? I had heard of actions against local authorities, but not the smaller councils.

Thanks,
Angie
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charper
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Several years ago our Parish Council were threatened with a suite if we did not pay the sum of 200. A tourist had stopped his car on the sea front and the three old was running amok. Opposite the car on the pavement was a wooden seat. The toddler climbed on the seat and as it was not secured to the ground it fell against the open car door. The toddler received a split lip. The legal team announced we were partly to blame and it would be wiser to pay up as 200 would be a paltry sum if it came to a full blown case. We paid.

We are currently seeking advice from the authorities re liability if a volunteer in our Emergency Plan causes harm or gets harmed and wants compensation.
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