William Eichler 10 August 2018

Council faces legal action over pothole death

Warwickshire County Council is facing possible legal action after delays in repairing a pothole led to the death of a cyclist.

The triathlete Kate Vanloo died in 2016 after she hit a pothole in the road and was thrown from her bike into the path of an oncoming car.

An inquest into Ms Vanloo’s death, held in September 2017, found the pothole was 10 centimetres deep and covered by a puddle.

The inquest heard that the pothole had been identified by an inspection in March 2015 and again in September 2015.

Warwickshire CC had a contract with Balfour Beatty Living Places to deliver highway maintenance inspections and repairs. Balfour Beatty, in turn, subcontracted the road repair work to CR MacDonald Limited.

The council’s policy required that ‘category 2’ potholes were repaired within 28 days of identification, the inquest found.

However, for financial reasons repair works were suspended between the end of July and the end of September 2015.

The pothole was then due to be repaired in November 2015. However, a hole three miles away was repaired instead and the error was not picked up until after Ms Vanloo’s death.

Following the inquest, a Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) report from John Buckley, the assistant coroner for Warwickshire, demanded action from the county council to reduce the delays in repairing potholes.

‘In my opinion urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and your organisation have the power to take such action,’ he wrote.

‘The action should include an explanation of the steps you have taken to speed up the time it takes to repair potholes once they have been identified and what steps you have taken to track the progress of work orders that have been sent to Balfour Beatty Living Places for action.’

Responding to the PFD report, Monica Fogarty, the joint managing director of the county council, wrote that the authority is working on ensuring work orders relating to fixing potholes are issued promptly and that ‘any slippage by Balfour Beatty is quickly detected and pursued.’

The law firm Leigh Day said this week that they were ‘investigating further legal action against the council’ on behalf of Ms Vanloo’s family.

A spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council said: 'We are not able to discuss details as this is a private matter for the family.

'Using improvements in technology and systems we are working closely with our contractors to help make sure that repair jobs are passed over as quickly as possible and tightly monitored to ensure that they do the job correctly and promptly.

'Whilst nothing can make up for the loss this family have suffered we are doing all we can to keep road users safe so tragedies such as this can be avoided.'

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