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By Sarah Dalton

Jun 3rd, 2019

Langleys successfully obtain summary judgment for local authority in wall collapse claim

The Public Sector Team successfully obtained summary judgment in a claim made against a local authority. The claim arose from an accident involving a teenager who had climbed onto a wall which collapsed onto his leg.

Background 

The wall was adjacent to a footpath owned by the local authority but it was not adopted highway. The wall ran alongside the footpath and it formed the boundary of a residential property. The claimant conceded he was showing off to his friends by attempting to swing from the wall. 

Every claim must include a “cause of action”. However we argued there was none here; the local authority was not in breach of statutory duty and could not be regarded as negligent for failing to reinforce the wall of a residential property so that it could take the weight of someone climbing on it. Otherwise, where would the duty end?

There were also multiple procedural errors including failure to serve CPR complaint medical and expert evidence. We applied for summary judgment on the basis that the claim had no real prospects of success. 

Hearing 

At a recent hearing the judge concluded there had to be a legally recognisable duty for the claim to succeed. The Council was not the Highway Authority or the occupier. The function of a wall is to form a boundary, it is not there to be climbed on or sat on. The judge concluded “I simply cannot see any basis on which this claim could succeed”. 

The judge also agreed there were a number of procedural errors and reminded himself of the Supreme Court decision which confirmed that litigants in person have the same obligations to comply with the CPR. 

Therefore the judge granted summary judgment to the local authority on the basis that there was no cause of action. Further, the judge found there had been no negligence on the part of the local authority and the claimant had accepted the risk when he chose to jump on the wall. 

Comment

In certain cases an early application for summary judgment is an effective way of drawing a claim to a conclusion at an early stage of the claim and this limits costs. We understand there is an initial outlay but the cost savings for both parties can be significant. We are pleased the local authority in this case agreed with our proposed course of action.  

The Public Sector Team have made numerous applications for summary judgment with significant success, including disease, road traffic accidents and accident claims.
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