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Sumner v Colborne
Court of Appeal - 4th May 2018
A landowner does not owe a duty of care to ensure that vegetation contained on his land does not interfere with sight lines on the highway. The Court of Appeal so held in the above case, when upholding the decision of HHJ Pearce to strike out a claim brought by a motorist against two highway authorities, one of which owned the land in question. The motorist emerged from a minor road and collided with a cyclist on a trunk road, causing the cyclist very serious injuries. The cyclist sued the motorist. The motorist entered a defence alleging that he could not have avoided the accident because vegetation on land owned by a highway authority blocked his view. He brought contribution proceedings against the highway authority which owned the land (the Welsh Ministers) and the highway authority which maintained it pursuant to delegated arrangements (Denbighshire County Council). The motorist alleged that improvement works carried out on the land, combined with inadequate maintenance of vegetation, had worsened visibility for highway users. The Court of Appeal held that to impose a duty of care would have profound implications for anyone with fields or gardens bordering a road, create unwarranted and impractical problems, result in a new and unnecessary category of satellite litigation and run counter to the policy that motorists must take the highway network as they find it.
Andrew Warnock QC, instructed by Weightmans LLP, represented Denbighshire County Council.