Baxter v Stockton-on-Tees Corporation

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date23 June 1958
Judgment citation (vLex)[1958] EWCA Civ J0623-1
Date23 June 1958
CourtCourt of Appeal

[1958] EWCA Civ J0623-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal


Lord Justice Jenkins

Lord Justice Parker and

Lord Justice Pearce

Eileen Elizabsth Baxter (Widow and Administratrix of the Estate of Alexander Ralph Baxter deceased)
The Mayor, Burgesses and Citizens of the County Borcough of Stockton-on-Tees
Durham Country Council

MR. PHINEAS QUASS, Q.C., MR. R. WITHERS PAYNE and MR. R. A. R. STROYAN (instructed, by Messrs. Cohen, Jackson & Scott, Stockton-on-Tees) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Defendants below).

MR. GEORGE S. WALLER, Q.C. and Mr. C. P. HEPTONSTRLL (instructed by Messrs. Archer, Parkin & Townsend, Stockton-on-Tees, Agents for Messrs. Mace & Jones, Liverpool, 2) appeared for the Respondent) (Plaintiff below)


: The judgment I an about to read is the judgment of the Court in this case.


This is an appeal by the Stockton-on-Tees Corporation from a judgment of Mr. Justice Barry dated the 4th November 1957 whereby he awarded the plaintiff, Eileen Elizabeth Baxter, a total of £4,500 damages under the Fatal Accidents Acts and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1334 against the defendants as the Highway Authority responsible for the highway known as Fleet Bridge Road in the County of Durham in respect of the death of her husband, Alexander Ralph Baxter, from injuries sustained by him when a motor cycle on which he was riding at night along Fleet Bridge Road came into collision with the kerb of an approach island adjacent to the Portrack Roundabout. The basis of the claim was (in effect) that the accident was brought about by the negligence of the defendants as Highway Authority, in that the approach island was so shaped and sited that the part of it with which the motor cycle collided projected into the carriage way along which the deceased was riding, but the defendants nevertheless failed to light the island or the part of it so projecting, or to give users of the highway (including the deceased) warning (by means of traffic signs or otherwise) of the existence of the projection, which amounted to a concealed danger or trap.


The accident took place at about midnight on the 14th/15th October 1955, when the plaintiff's husband, a Company Quartermaster Sergeant in the R.A.S.C., and a highly skilled motor cyclist, was riding his motor cycle eastwards along the Fleet Bridge Road on his way from Norton near Billinghan to Middlesbrough. In order to reach Middlesbrough he had to negotiate the Portrack Roundabout, situated at the point where the Haverton Hill Road is intersected by the Fleet Bridge Road and its continuation towards Middlesbrough known as the Tees (Newport) Bridge Approach Road which takes off from the Roundabout nearly opposite the point at which the Fleet Bridge Road enters it.


Where it approaches the Roundabout the Fleet Bridge Road is laid out as a dual carriage way by means of a central strip of grass with concrete kerbing, the northern carriage way being reserved for eastbound, and the southern for westbound, traffic. At the point of junction of the Fleet Bridge Road with the Roundabout the central strip ends on the western side of an accommodation road joining the two carriage ways, and immediately beyond that comes the relevant approach island. This was a plot of grass in the shape of an irregular quadrilateral bordered by concrete kerbing some 4 inches high, its western and shortest side forming the eastern side of the accommodation road, its southern side in line with the kerbing on the south side of the central strip, its eastern side facing the central island of the Roundabout and its northern side (the one with which the motor cycle collided) slanting or splayed outwards (or to the left from the point of view of eastbound traffic) from the line of the northern kerb of the central strip at a fairly pronounced angle. This slant or splay though to a great extent compensated by a more gradual curve of the opposite side of the northern carriage way in the same direction, would give the effect to a person driving along the middle or right-hand side of the northern carriage way of a sudden turning of the off-side kerb diagonally across his front. We should mention, as some point was made of it, that shortly before it reached the approach island the northern carriage way makes a very slight turn to the right.


The position as regards lighting and traffic signs at the time of the accident was this. There was a number of street lamps illuminated by gas disposed about the outer perimeter of the Roundabout but these were operated on the half-night system, which means that they were automatically turned off at 11 p. m. On the perimeter of the central island of the Roundabout there were four illuminated keep-left bollards, one facing down the northern carriage way of Fleet Bridge Road, one down the southern (or incoming) carriage way of Tees (Newport) Bridge Approach Road (which was also laid out as a dual carriage way), and one down each of the two sections of the intersected Haverton Hill Roan (which were not dual carriage ways). These four bollards were accompanied by reflecting arrows pointing to the left. There was also an illuminated keep-left bollard on each of the approach islands. In the case of Fleet Bridge Road the bollard on the approach island faced diagonally to the right from the point of view of eastbound traffic, for the purpose of guiding westbound traffic into the southern carriage way, and could not be seen by anyone travelling east. The bollard on the approach island in the case of the other dual carriage way was similarly faced from the point of view of westbound traffic to guide eastbound traffic into its proper path. We should note that in this case the shape and positioning of the approach island was very much the same as in the case of Fleet Bridge Road, but the leftward slant of splay was perhaps somewhat less pronounced. The two sections of Haverton Hill Road, not being dual carriage ways, were each provided with a central approach island on which was mounted an illuminated keep-left bollard facing down the road by way of warning to incoming traffic. The dual carriage way in the case of the Tees (Newport) Bridge Approach Road appears to have begun only a short distance from the Roundabout, and its beginning was marked by another illuminated keep-left bollard facing down the road. Each of the four roads had on its near side coming in towards the Roundabout an advance direction sign with reflector studs. In the case of Fleet Bridge Road, however, this sign was sited some 20 feet to the left of the carriage way.


There were some red lamps placed round the central island to warn of certain work in progress, but there is a doubt whether these were alight at the material time and it is agreed that they should be disregarded for the purposes of this case.


The deceased was accompanied on his abortive trip to Middlesbrough by a friend, Sergeant Stock dale, also of the R.A.S.C. They had met at a dance at Norton, and agreed to go on to some other attraction in Middlesbrough. The deceased led the way on his motor cycle, Sergeant Stockdale following in a small car. The deceased's headlight was burning brightly, though apparently there was some question as to the condition of his dynamo. They set off, with the deceased leading at perhaps 35 miles per hour. Sergeant Stockdale lost sight of the deceased before they reached the Roundabout (which was only about a mile from the hall where the dance was held) but attributed this to the fact that he slowed down because the road surface was bumpy. There was some degree of mist over the Roundabout, which Sergeant Stockdale attributed to the I.C.I. works nearby.


Sergeant Stockdale went on to Middlesbrough without seeing the deceased again, and waited for him there in vain.


A Police Constable on his way home from duty soon after midnight found the deceased lying on the central island of the Roundabout near the keep-left bollard facing down Fleet Bridge Road, seriously injured, with his machine lying on the same island some 15 feet away. The deceased shortly afterwards died.


Another Police Constable who came on the scene a little later made a sketch plan based on his inspection of the area. This showed marks on the projecting kerbs and on the ring-road of the Roundabout indicating that the motor cycle struck the kerb much where one would expect it to strike if the deceased had been driving straight along the middle of the northern carriage way, and had continued in that line without observing the slant or splay of the approach island towards his left; and that the impact was such that the motor cycle jumped the island, landing in the ring-road, and then bouncing or running on out of control to the place at which it was found on the central island, throwing the deceased at some stage in its course to the point where he was found near the keep-left bollard.


The Fleet Bridge Road was constructed between 1938 and 1940 by the Durham County Council under Sections 8 and 10 of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act 1909 which by Section 8(1)(a) as amended provides as follows. The side note is "powers of Road Board". Them "The Minister of Transport shall have power with the approval of the Treasury to make to any Highway Authority advances in respect of the construction of new roads or the maintenance or improvement of existing roads, or to make such advances, in conjunction with the Highway Authority, to any Company or person".


Then Section 10 reads: "Where the Minister makes an advance to a Highway Authority in respect of the construction of a new road, the Minister may authorise the Authority to construct the road, and where so authorised, the Highway Authority shall have power to construct the road and to do all such acts as may be necessary for the...

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3 cases
  • R (National Grid Gas Plc) v Environment Agency
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 17 Mayo 2006 the context of claims against highway authorities, where the doctrine of immunity for nonfeasance applied: see Baxter ~v~ Stockton (1959) 1 Q.B. 441 and cf. Simon ~v~ Islington (1943) K.B. 188. 84 Mr Pleming therefore submitted that the application of Nash should be confined to cases a......
  • Edward O'Riordan v Clare County Council and Response Engineering Ltd
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 19 Octubre 2021
    ...misfeasance committed by its predecessors.” 36 . The claim was accordingly dismissed. 37 . Nash was subsequently applied in Baxter v. Stockton-on-Tees Corporation [1958] 2 All ER 675. There, a county council constructed a road between 1938 and 1940 which included a dangerous feature compri......
  • Great North Eastern Railway Ltd v Gary Neil Hart
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 30 Octubre 2003
    ...reasonable care not to expose unreasonably those on or whose property was on the railway line ahead. 30 See for example: Baxter .v. Stockton-on-Tees Corporation [1959] 1Q.B. 441 at page 459 – per Jenkins L.J. "As to the hypothetical case against the county council, there is, as we have said......

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