Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Sued for clearing your driveway/path

Why are people even discussing this.

The thing on TV even had someone saying "If you cleared you drive with a kettle of hot water and it froze over and someone then slipped on the ice you could be sued"???

When did common sense die.

I have to wonder:-
  • If you cleared the snow, and it was not freezing but just cold, yet next day it froze over, can you be sued
  • If it just rained and froze over night and before you even got up, can you be sued
  • If you clear the drive with a spade, and then it rains and freezes, can you be sued
At the end of the day, if it was not made unsafe by what you did, i.e. you left it in a safe state, and the elements caused it to be unsafe, how can it be your fault???


  1. But *did you* leave it in a safe state? You interfered and therefore have assumed responsibility in the eyes of the law.

    Personally, I'm with you on this. I remember helping my father clear the pavement outside our house when I was a child. It was hard work but a lot more people seemed to do it back then.

    Has anyone actually been sued over this?

  2. I've not been able to find any actual stories of anyone being sued; all I can find online is "personal injury lawyers" claiming that it could happen...

  3. I have - at least 20 times in my life - been told by someone who thinks they know "ah, well the reason they haven't gritted the pavements/cleared the snow/shovelled the path is because if you do nothing and someone falls over, then you aren't liable... WHEREAS if you do try and clear it, and somebody falls over, you are."

    And every f%cking time, i've told them to think about what they are saying and how utterly retarded it is.

    Sometimes I am more polite than that ...

    But not always.

  4. You have to wonder - does this mean that when the council is running low on grit, and they grit just the main roads and not the side streets. If you have a fender-bender on an ungritted side street, can you sue the council?

  5. As far as gritting goes sounds more like an excuse to do nothing.

    IANAL but I can't see any such claim being successful. While in England we don't have an explicit 'Good Samaritan' law I believe there is common law precedent that would provide protection provided you tried in good faith to make the drive/path safer and did not make the outcome significantly worse than if you had done nothing.

    The kettle scenario is less clear. Fresh snow certainly provides better grip than ice, so it could be claimed that using hot water when the outside temperature was below freezing would have a predictable effect of replacing the snow with ice and making the surface worse.

  6. I believe for domestic purposes the relevant law is the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 which basically says if you make no attempt to clear access and someone you could reasonably have expected (postman, other delivery) is injured as a result of your (lack of) efforts, the occupier can be sued.

    The current hoo-hah seems to be down to Daily Mail and Telegraph misreporting of something of from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. The IOSH have a front page link to a clarification on the subject. - see "So-called "IOSH guidance""

  7. Interesting. Is there an equivalent to the Occupiers Liability Act for commercial premises?

  8. Answering my own question:
    Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare Regulations) 1992, Regulation 12 deals with floors and surfaces.

    Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 makes provision for custodial sentences in H&S cases.

    So NOT clearing/gritting/otherwise making safe walkways on your business premises could potentially put you in prison!

  9. Occupiers Liability Act 1984 is interesting.

    "(5) Any duty owed by virtue of this section in respect of a risk may, in an appropriate case, be discharged by taking such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to give warning of the danger concerned or to discourage persons from incurring the risk."

    So you just need a sign "slippery path"...