Sullivan v (1) Cardiff Council; and (2) Dwr Cymru/ Welsh Water

19 October 2015

Point of interest: for highway lawyers: Shine v Tower Hamlets [2006] EWCA Civ 852 (no s.41 duty in respect of street furniture) applies to pillar fire hydrants just as much as it does to bollards. The Claimant (“C”) had tried to argue that because the covers of the usual subterranean hydrants are part of the highway, so must a pillar hydrant be part of the highway. Unsurprisingly the court rejected that argument.

The Claimant was out for a jog on the street where he lives in daylight hours. As he ran past the local pub a friend called out in greeting. The Claimant turned to wave to his friend and ran into a pillar fire hydrant at the side of the pavement and broke his thigh bone. He claimed against both the highway authority (Defendant 1 – represented by Matthew) and the water company responsible for the hydrant (Defendant 2). The fire hydrant was missing part of its cover and the Claimant’s case (supported by an orthopaedic expert) was that if the cover had been there he would not have broken his leg (albeit that he still would have run into the fire hydrant).

His claim failed on medical causation (the judge preferring the evidence of the defendants’ orthopaedic expert that the presence/ absence of the cover made no difference to the broken femur). The judge went on to determine that in any event the fire hydrant (covered or not) did not pose a foreseeable risk of harm.