Injured Man Hits Out At Council’s Maintenance Of Public Areas

Injury Specialists At Irwin Mitchell Urge Council To Ensure Public Spaces Correctly Maintained


A man who was injured when he fell over a hidden open manhole cover into sewage has hit out at Sheffield City Council for forcing him to take legal action by delaying taking responsibility for his accident.

Keith Unwin, 62, suffered injuries to his legs and shins when he fell over the manhole cover in February 2010 – while he was walking across council-maintained grassland near his home in Gleadless.

After a year-long legal battle Mr Unwin has now proved that the Council was responsible for the accident, after enlisting the help of personal injury specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Sheffield City Council had initially denied they were at fault for the accident, even though the grassland was poorly maintained, the manhole cover was open and the lighting broken on alternative paths.

They also claimed they had received no reports of the damaged manhole prior to the accident, and argued Mr Unwin should have used a nearby footpath leading up to the garages.

It was only when Mr Unwin provided a photograph of the alternative footpath, which itself was extremely overgrown and with broken street lighting, that the Council conceded it was responsible for his injuries. Mr Unwin had already complained to the council about broken street lighting in the area, but this was not repaired until after his accident.

Mr Unwin said: “The pathway and manhole cover were in terrible condition and both were dangerous to anyone passing through. There are a large number of children who live in my area and it could easily have been one of them who was injured by the manhole.

“The Council was quick to try and cover its own back suggesting it wasn’t at fault for my accident, and it’s just a shame it didn’t show the same speed of activity when it came to repairing the lighting and manhole cover.  They insisted there was no fault on their part and I had no option than to seek help to make them stand up and take responsibility.

“Some of the roads and pathways in Sheffield are disgraceful and it’s about time the Council took action to improve them. They didn’t take my concerns seriously before my accident, but I hope they might take more notice after this.”

Sheffield City Council has now agreed to pay damages to Mr Unwin after negotiating a settlement with his representatives at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Kay Bailey, a public liability specialist at Irwin Mitchell representing Mr Unwin is now urging the Council to ensure all public areas are correctly maintained to prevent further accidents from occurring. 
She said: “Mr Unwin was injured as a result of poor maintenance by Sheffield City Council, and he was fortunate not to have been injured even more seriously. As we have seen from this case, potholes and manholes can pose a serious danger to the public if they are not maintained properly.

“Mr Unwin’s accident could have easily been avoided had the Council repaired the lighting and the manhole cover, and it is important that swift action is taken to ensure public areas are kept in good condition. At Irwin Mitchell we repeatedly call for improvements in safety standards and will continue to campaign for the rights of the victims we represent.”