Ooops, not quite all good new on the snow myth-busting front. Despite good news from many parts of the country about councils laying to rest the myths around people being sued if they clear snow from outside their own homes, Wigan Council has gone for reinforcing rather than rejecting the legal myths:
HOMEOWNERS and businesses could risk being sued for clearing snow from the front of their premises if someone slips or falls, legal experts at Wigan Council have warned…
With more snow forecast for this weekend, Wigan Council’s borough solicitor Kevin Lawson said: “It is the council’s responsibility, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.
“All available council operatives were redeployed to snow clearing duties in the town centres, medical facilities and other locations after the heavy snowfall just before Christmas, but we do appreciate the public’s efforts.
“Private landowners are not obliged to clear snow or ice from the highway. If they do and they create a hazard or danger that results in an injury to another, it is possible that they could be held liable for those injuries, but that would depend on the particular facts of the case.” [Wigan Today]
It’s a classic poor legal response, because whilst nothing in the quote is untrue the way it is worded gives the wrong impression of the actual legal risks involved. Because the reality is that no-one so far has been able to identify any case of someone ever being successfully sued in the UK (or even cases going to court and being lost). A good answer would accurately reflect the position by putting it the other way round – pointing out how no-one has been sued and if you carry out normal snow clearing behaviour you can’t be sued.
If you are wondering whether this is just a case of a local newspaper inaccurately editing an answer from a council lawyer – it seems not, because the council’s press team has declined to respond to a question that gave them the chance to say just that. The council’s press office has also declined to other questions on the matter, included whether they agree with the very different tenor of legal advice given by central government and if not, why not.
Having these sorts of legal scare stories raised in the local press and then declining to comment is underwhelming, to put it mildly. Wigan could and should learn from what others have been saying, and fighting rather than encouraging mythical fears.