Litigation Recent Decisions 27/05/97

Council liable for injuries sustained by falling branch

Chapman v Barking and Dagenham London Borough Council (1997)

QBD (Viscount Colville Of Culross QC (16/5/97)

Summary: An action to determine liability for injuries arising out of an accident where a branch fell off a tree and hit a van.

The plaintiff was employed as a van driver when his van was struck by a branch from a tree during a high wind. The wind was measured between gale force seven and nine with gusts of over 80mph. As a result of the branch colliding with the van the plaintiff was severely injured and is now a paraplegic, is confined to a wheelchair and suffers other medical complications. This hearing was to decide on liability. The tree which fell stuck out diagonally across the road along which the plaintiff was driving. It was difficult to determine the exact position of the tree because it was felled the day after the accident. It was found that there was no formal system of tree inspection, and at the relevant time resources were stretched as the storm in 1987 had felled many trees. It was known that a person had specifically complained about trees in the particular road in 1990, but the witness could not be found. The Department of the Environment has sent out circulars on the care of trees.