Analysis of a Case Including Judgement, orders and analysis: Spencer v The Council of the City of Maryborough

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The material facts

The plaintiff, Mrs. Spencer, was a 73 year old woman. In March 2000, Mrs. Spencer was walking along the pavement in Maryborough, when she tripped and fell over. As a result of the fall, Mrs. Spencer suffered a fractured hip. In the months prior to the incident, Mrs. Spencer stated that she had noticed, '...unevenness in the cement paving on that road...' The trial judge established that there was a slight difference in elevation of about '... 9 to 10 millimetres...' between the two adjoining concrete slabs. On learning of the fall, the Council responded by grinding down the respective concrete slabs to make them level by a procedure known as "concrete mowing".

The procedural history

As a result of her injury, Ms. Spencer brought a civil action against the Council. The plaintiff claimed that the Council owed a duty of care in ensuring that pavement was maintained to standard that prevented the incidence of '...latent

dangers which might have reasonably expected to exist...' The plaintiff argued that the difference in height between the two concrete slabs of the pavement, posed an unacceptable risk to those who used it. Therefore, Mrs. Spencer claimed that the Council was negligent for failing to remove the danger.

The defendant denied any negligence on their behalf. They argued that there was an appropriate maintenance system in place and that regular inspections were conducted on the pavement. The defence maintained that the obligations placed on the Council by reason of s 901 of the Local Government Act 1994 (Qld) was a duty to take 'reasonable avoid foreseeable risk'. Accordingly, the Council argued that the duty which Mrs. Spencer held them to was unrealistic and placed a burden on the appellate which was far too high. Furthermore, the Council claimed that Mrs.