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Sheffield Court case

On the 16th May 1995 at 07:00 Mr W. Roe was driving his Ford 1.8 litre Sierra car along Norton Avenue, Sheffield. He lost control of the vehicle. In the ensuing accident, involving collision with a Supertram traction pole mounted in the central reserve of the dual carriageway, he sustained serious personal injury.

Norton Avenue is a dual two carriageway and is part of the Outer Ring Road. The tramway is located in the outer running lanes in each direction for a short section from Gleadless Townend (the junction of the tramway section to Halfway and Mosborough) to the point where the tramway leaves Norton Avenue to form the segregated single line branch to Herdings and Herdings Park. Norton Avenue is a 40mph road over the whole section of street running.

Roe was suing on the contention that the accident was wholly caused, or alternatively materially contributed to, by the then state of the relevant part of Norton Avenue (i.e. the offside joint running lane inbound containing the tram track) - such that it was dangerous for traffic.

He claimed damages from no fewer than seven defendants, contending that each jointly or severally caused or materially contributed to that dangerous state of the road.

The Seven Defendants are:-

On direction from the case Judge the Defendants 4, 5, 6 & 7 have been withdrawn from the case. In addition the case against D1 has been stayed.

The Judgment

Holland J. in an oral ruling found for the claimant on the ground of breach of statutory duty under section 25 of the 1870 Tramways Act, which imposes an absolute obligation that the tramway track be installed and maintained on a level with the surrounding road surface. Holland J. intends to produce his written Judgment as a matter of urgency.

Immediate implications of the Judgment

It appears to be the case that the Judgment means that the very presence of the rail within the carriageway can give rise to a breach of statutory duty. The position is unclear with regard to actions that defendants D2/D3 will need to take, and from when.

Appeal

Consideration is being given to an appeal by the Defendants.

30 October 2001


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