South Coast Council ordered to pay substantial damages in beach accident

Published 29 Aug 2017

Our client was an elderly gentleman who was walking down a beach in the South Coast Region of NSW. He was walking along a south coast beach walkway to the beach to catch some worms when he tripped and fell over matting which has been placed upon the instructions of the local council. The matting had deteriorated and been removed from the walkway leaving unsecured sections of it unbeknown to our client and other beach goers. The matting had collapsed beneath him whilst he was walking to the beach.

Our client’s injuries were so serious, he was taken to hospital to be operated upon for a fractured right ankle. The reasons why our client tripped and fell was that he was unaware that the subject matting was unsecured in the area as he was walking along the walkway to the beach. The local council had modified the area, but did not leave it in a safe condition for beach users.

The local council was the public authority who had the care, management and control of the walkway from the carpark to the south coast beach. It was alleged that they owed our client and all other beach goers a duty of care to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury to them.

There were certain sections of the matting which were missing on the walkway, and as a result of the matting not being secure appropriately, our client fell into a hole and suffered a fractured right ankle which needed to be operated upon immediately. It was alleged that the local council were negligent in ensuring that the walkway was not reasonable safe, ensuring that the matting was secure and had failed to adequately inspect the walkway to fix or make safe the walkway due to missing or unsecured matting.

It was alleged that the risk of injury was clearly foreseeable and was not insignificant. As a result of the local council’s negligence our client suffered quite significant injuries, losses and damages.

We obtained all of the information, documents and particulars from the local council which address the relevant issues concerning the walkway to the beach and the matting. It was clear to us that the local council were negligent in failing to adequately inspect the walkway and repair or fix the matting which had been placed on the walkway which was not secured and posed a risk to beach goers and pedestrians of the walkway.

We launched legal proceedings against the local council in negligence. We commissioned a liability expert report in the matter. The liability expert viewed the area where our client was injured. There was numerous photographs of the pathway to the beach which clearly confirmed the state of the walkway and the condition of the mats including the unsecured mats. After our client’s injury, all of these matters had been rectified and repaired.

The liability expert found that the local council had failed to control the foreseeable risk of a slip and fall on the subject walkway from the carpark to the beach. It had been modified by the local council. The matting had been placed over the walkway and had not been secured properly. Our client was not aware of this when he was walking from the carpark along the walkway to the beach.

Furthermore, it was found that the local council should have undertaken regular maintenance and inspect of the matting to ensure that it remained a stable surface. Had that occurred, our client would have been aware of the danger with the unsecured matting. It was the local council’s obligation to provide a safe access and to the beach from the carpark given the modified surface which was provided by them.

Our client was injured when the modified matting places on the walkway by the local council had collapsed beneath him and it was not supported by the ground surface underneath. As a result, our client fell into a hole and suffered a significant fracture of his right ankle which needed to be operated upon immediately.

We served the liability expert report upon the local council’s representatives in the matter. They did not serve any medical expert evidence in reply, but they maintained their denial of liability in the matter.

The parties arranged for our client to be medically examined and assessed by a number of specialists to address the full extent of his injuries and disabilities arising from the accident. Our client was left with a permanent injury to his right ankle as a result of the accident. The court listed the matter for hearing over a number of days and ordered that the parties arrange for a court appointed informal settlement conference in order to narrow the liability and medical issues and to discuss the options of an out of court settlement with respect to the proceedings.

We attended to the informal settlement conference between the parties and both sides placed their position concerning the liability and medical issues and on the basis of those discussions proceeded to negotiate the matter. After a number of hours, it was agreed that the local council was ordered to pay our client a substantial award in damages of compensation for his injuries, losses and damages. Our client was extremely happy with the outcome of the matter considering that liability and negligence was denied by the local council after the claim was made upon them.

Conclusion:-

If you are a pedestrian or beach goer who suffers an injury at the beach as a result of the negligence of the local authority or any other company, you may be entitled to pursue a claim in negligence for your injuries, losses and damages providing that you can establish negligence against the party at fault.

In our client’s case, he was a beach goer walking along a pathway from the carpark to the beach when he tripped and fell over a section of the pathway where the matting which had been placed there by the local authority and modified was not secured. It resulted in our client falling into a hole and fracturing his right ankle which required surgical intervention.

We were able to obtain photographs and a liability expert report which established negligence against the local authority and their failure to undertake regular inspections, replacement, repair and removal of the matting which had not been secured and which had been modified by the local authority. The local authority was ordered to pay our client a substantial award in damages for compensation in respect of his injuries, losses and damages.

For a free no obligation consultation, please contact our toll free number on 1800 004 878 so that an appointment can be arranged for you to attend our office to protect your legal rights arising from your injury.