John Redwood welcomes clarification of householders’ liability when clearing snow from outside their homes

John Redwood has welcomed confirmation from the Government that householders who clear snow from the pavements outside their homes are unlikely to face any legal liability should someone slip or have an accident.

In response to a letter sent by John to the Department for Transport seeking clarification on the legal risks to homeowners, Sadiq Khan, the Minister responsible for local roads, said:

“At present, there is no legal restriction preventing members of the public from clearing the snow and ice on the highway outside their properties; it remains open for them to do this.

Provided that they are reasonable and careful it is unlikely that a member of the public would face any legal liability, and those using the road or footway have a responsibility to be careful themselves.

Action by citizens to clear snow outside their properties does not remove the duty placed on the local highway authority by S41 of the Highways Act 1980 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.”

Speaking about the Minister’s clarification, John said: “I’m pleased that on this occasion the Government seems to be on the side of householders who just want to clear the snow from their drives or the roads outside their homes.

At a time when there is much vexatious litigation it is refreshing to see the Government apparently acknowledge that a bit of care and common sense is needed”.

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6 Comments

  1. Chris Woolley
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I complained to Wokingham council during the recent snow, when the tractor fitted with a snowplough cleared the roads around us by pushing the snow across the pavements. As most people were going on foot at that time, this caused people, especially mums with children, to have to walk in the road. Not a great idea when cars were slithering on the edge of control.

    You should maybe take this action up with the council to remind them that common sense goes a long way.

  2. Kevin Peat
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The elephant in the room is no-win-no-fee litigation and the surplus of lawyers we have to go with it.

    It's all making common sense a liability in Britain.

    The first thing for you to do on getting into power ? Turn at least half of the legal colleges into technical colleges.

    Then we return to becoming a nation of doers rather than a nation of talking heads.

  3. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    This is good news.

    You do not say where Sadiq Kahn's reply is to be found in the event that a householder should wish it prayed in aid of defending a claim.

    It really should be on the official record and readily accessible nation wide.

    i do not wish to pour could water on a worthy and worthwhile initiative, but I do detect there to be plenty of room for lawyers to argue the relative merits of the householder being "reasonable and careful" as against those using the road or footway being "careful themselves". Just who is responsible for that broken leg?

    Call me a cynic? Of course, when it comes to civil litigation. Never the less, the reply you have received is certainly a move in the right direction.

  4. Jim
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    This changes nothing. It is Common Law that states you are liable if you do something that ends up causing an accident. Sadiq Khan has not just overturned hundreds of years of UK legal history. He has just made a typical politicians 'all things to all men' type statement that would be of zero help if a householder was sued in such a situation. You ask him to put it in writing that I cannot be sued for causing an accident after clearing the snow outside my house. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for it.

    Kevin Peat is correct. It's the legal vultures that are ruining this country with their 'where there's blame there's a claim' attitude. No win no fee should be abolished, and all litigants should have to pay their legal expenses up front , and get them back only if they win. Then only the really important and cast iron cases would ever see the light of day. All the 'lets chance it and see if they settle out of court' merchants would melt away faster than snow in August.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted February 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      Would you require all defendants in a civil litigation case to pay all their expenses up front? After all it is not the defendant who initiated the litigation.

      One way to win in civil litigation is to show your resources are unlimited with the intention of scaring off the other party who is not so well resourced and may not be able to find the cost, even if they win.

  5. JohnRS
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Surely it matters not one jot what any politician says, only what the law says and what's legally provable, doesnt it?

    I doubt if the word of this minister would carry much weight in court.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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