Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Negligence by design

Kane v New forrest DC [2001] E.G. 132, CS: [2001] EWCA Civ 878, distinguishing stovin v wise [1996] AC, 923 A local planning authority may not be immune from liability in negligence if it has permitted and required the construction of a foreseeable dangerous path.

In March 2005 Government published a draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill. The bill would introduce a new, specific offence of corporate manslaughter. An organisation would be prosecuted for this if a gross failing by its senior managers to take reasonable care for the safety of their workers or members of the public caused a person’s death. There have been some concerns that Highway Authorities may be liable under Corporate Manslaughter if it is found that a defect in design has resulted in death, and that this may stifle innovation in street design. The Government is alert to this issue and does not want to give design guidance the status of mandatory requirement by introducing the offence of Corporate Manslaughter. Authorities will need to show that they have carried out a risk assessment if departing from guidance, however. Again this points to the need for a documented and balanced design sign-off system that allows for authorities to move beyond normal design standards when appropriate.

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