A GRANDMOTHER who suffered shocking injuries when she plunged through a 6ft hole in a pavement has taken Kirklees Council to court.
Irene Duffy lost a chunk of her leg when the footpath on Northgate in Almondbury collapsed beneath her on December 23, 2004. She was in hospital for a week and needed a skin graft.
Mrs Duffy, now 72, flew back from her home near Mercia in Spain to sue the council at Sheffield County Court yesterday.
The grandmother-of-two, formerly of Snapes Fold in Almondbury, said the fall still badly affected her.
“It has spoilt my life,” she said.
“I used to be quite independent but now I have to rely so much on my husband Norman and my family.
“I have to use a wheelchair and I’m still on painkillers. It still gets really painful.”
The pavement was built by Huddersfield Borough Council – the predecessor to Kirklees – in the 1960s.
Mrs Duffy’s case is that the borough council created a “nuisance” by building it over a hole. Kirklees Council became responsible for that nuisance when it took over.
Bernard Phillips, prosecuting, said: “I’m not saying that Kirklees, as the authority from 1974 onwards, had anything to do with this nuisance, I’m saying that, because of the transition of powers, Kirklees stands in the same position.
“It should be treated as if it had created the nuisance itself.
“If you put a highway across an unsubstantial, uncompacted area, then that is a danger and that would constitute a nuisance.”
He added: “They have said ‘We are sorry, we just don’t know what caused it, we have made our enquiries, had a look and couldn’t find anything.’ That’s not good enough.
“It’s not a case of just a few inches – this is the most extraordinary collapse imaginable.”
Alex Foster, for the council, said until the accident there was no evidence there had been a hole under the pavement.
He said: “Everyone has every sympathy with Mrs Duffy in the circumstances.
“However, it was an unfortunate accident no-one could have foreseen.
“The investigations undertaken by the defendant are not able to explain the existence of the void.”
He said the material beneath the pavement may have been washed away, or an unknown geological phenomenon may have caused the hole to develop.
He added: “How the claimant came to fall is a mystery and at times, however unpalatable a mystery may be, it doesn’t mean that liability has to follow.”
A judgement in the case is expected within the next few weeks.