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Local Government Liability - Inspections and Maintenance Systems

Posted by Darius Isaacs on 26 April 2016

Court confirms Council's system of inspection and maintenance of its gardens as adequate

A visitor to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, who injured his wrist when he slipped and fell on algae whilst walking along an asphalt pathway within the gardens has failed to establish that the local authority was responsible for his fall. 

On the afternoon of 12 April 2012, the Plaintiff and his wife were visiting the gardens when he slipped and fell whilst descending a short, sharp decline, resulting in a fracture to his right wrist.  Both asserted that there was algae and/or slime at the location where he fell and that the Council, as the owner of the gardens, breached its duty of care in failing to take appropriate steps the remove this foreign substance from the pathway.  Proceedings were then initiated by the Plaintiff against the Brisbane City Council seeking damages for the injuries he sustained in his fall.

In finding in favour of the Council, the Chief Magistrate found that the pathway was subject to a system of regular inspection and maintenance by the Council, with Council staff having been instructed to check for hazards that might cause a slip and fall incident.  Whilst accepting the Plaintiff's claim that some algae was across the pathway at the time of his fall (though it was not as great as the Plaintiff had perceived it to be), His Honour nonetheless considered the Council's system of inspection and maintenance to be adequate to ensure the safety of those persons using the gardens and that it was difficult to know what else the Council could have done.  Furthermore, His Honour did not accept as reasonable any of the remedial measures proposed by the Plaintiff's expert engineer, namely the installation of stairs, cleats, notches, gratings or handrails or actual levelling of the entire area.  Consequently, the Plaintiff's claim for damages failed.

This decision reinforces the need for local governments to ensure that, when implementing a proactive system of inspection and maintenance of its assets, proper consideration is given to instructing staff on the need to properly identify potential defects or hazards and that appropriate steps are then taken once an area is identified as requiring further maintenance or repair. 

For more information on this article, or to discuss liability issues further, contact Mark Williams or Darius Isaacs on (07) 3243 0000.

Darius IsaacsAuthor: Darius Isaacs
About: Darius is a Senior Associate in the firm's Dispute Resolution & Litigation Group.
Tags: Local Government Liability Council Liability Inspection and Maintenance Slip and Fall Algae

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