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Beware falling branches! Micklewright judgment in Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal (Mummery LJ, Patten LJ and Hedley J) gave judgment today in the case of Micklewright v Surrey County Council [2011] EWCA Civ 922. The Claimant’s appeal was dismissed.

The claim concerned a tragic fatal accident when a large oak tree branch fell on Christopher Imison (deceased) whilst he was unloading his bicycle from the family car on a road in Windsor Great Park.

The trial judge held that the Defendant did not have an adequate system of inspection in place for its highway trees, but the claim failed and the Defendant was not liable to compensate the Claimant, because the defect in the tree would not have been detected even if there had been a reasonable system of inspection in place.

The CA (Hedley J gave the judgment of the court) agreed that the court had to consider (i) what sort of inspection would have been required (ii) what it would have revealed if carried out and (iii) would that inspection have resulted in the removal of the offending branch. Equally, they agreed that it was open to the trial judge to find on the evidence before him that the material defect would not have been revealed upon reasonable inspection, such that the claim failed. In the final paragraph of his lead judgment (with which his brother judges agreed)

Hedley J stated that "It is always discomforting where a family without any culpability, having suffered catastrophic loss are forced to do so without compensation but this is the inevitable result of a law which ties compensation to proof of negligence. For the reasons I have set out, I have come to the conclusion that this appeal should be dismissed.”.


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