Josh Hedgman overturns trial Judge’s finding that council had negligently positioned a signpost on a cycle path

Published: 03/08/2021 | News

Price v Oxfordshire County Council [2021] 7 WLUK 167​

Josh Hedgman was instructed last year by Oxfordshire County Council to defend a claim brought by a cyclist who managed to ride his bicycle into a ‘battleship-grey’ signpost that sat in the middle of a shared pedestrian and cycle path. The signpost had been there since 1999 and the Claimant’s own evidence was that he had previously cycled past it ‘multiple times’ without issue because it was on his route home from work.  

The trial came before Deputy District Judge Stonham who found that the signpost was a hazard such that, in his view, it was negligently situated. He found the Claimant two-thirds contributorily negligent and thus awarded the Claimant one-third of the value of his claim in damages. 

Josh asked the DDJ for permission to appeal the finding of primary liability, which was refused at first instance. The request was renewed before Her Honour Judge Clarke, the Designated Civil Judge, who granted permission and later heard the appeal. 

In a reserved Judgment, HHJ Clarke accepted Josh’s submissions, allowed the appeal, and set aside the order of the DDJ. In short:

(1) Despite both counsel having set out the relevant principles and authorities, the DDJ had failed to properly direct himself on the law as to what in law amounted to a ‘danger’. 

(2) The DDJ had accordingly failed to apply that test and the ‘lack of analysis’ in the Judgment was ‘striking’.

(3) There was a paucity of reasoning and analysis. The ‘inadequacy of the judgment in the court below’ had put the parties and the Appellate Court in a position in which it was ‘impossible to tell’ whether the DDJ had gone wrong on the law or the facts. 

(4) The DDJ had failed to take into account a number of relevant matters – not least the fact that the signpost had been there without apparent incident since 1999 – despite Josh having made ‘focussed submissions in oral argument’ on the point before the DDJ.

Such was the inadequacy and paucity of the DDJ’s reasoning, HHJ Clarke remitted the matter for a retrial. The Claimant subsequently confirmed, however, that he would not proceeding with the matter to that retrial. 

Josh  was instructed by Jenny Sore of Blake Morgan. The appellate Judgment is available on Westlaw and can be found here.