Hundreds of claims against council
Members of the public are suing the council for a number of different reasons with the top five including footpath slips and trips, vehicle damage caused by potholes, damage caused by poor road conditions, flooding and so called ‘other’ reasons.
The most recent figures were taken on 31 December and showed 501 active claims against the council, some of which date back a number of years.
At the top of the pile are footpath slips and trips which account for 146 of the claims active with the council’s insurance company IPB.
Potholes are next with 120 claims, followed by poor road conditions at 115, ‘other’ with 44, and flooding at 15 claims.
According to Cork County Council Head of Finance Loraine Lynch, the council is not in a position to disclose the estimated value of the combined claims due to it being sensitive information.
However, Ms Lynch did confirm that, hypothetically, if the council were to pay all of the claims at once, there are sufficient means in place to do so. “If all claims came in together, can we handle it? The answer is yes,” she said. Speaking at a meeting of Cork County Council on Monday, Carrigaline Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said 501 is “a lot of claims” and called for more action to be taken to reduce further claims.
“It's a difficult job for us as a council to be on top of every footpath across the county. I would ask that, when issues are raised with us as public representatives by members of the public in regard to trip hazards, that priority be given to repairing them,” he said.
Cllr for Mallow and Kanturk Gearoid Murphy (FF), who is a barrister by profession, said it goes without saying that there will always be people suing Cork County Council but that preventative measures would go a long way.
According to the councillor, claims against the council are quite costly regardless of whether the claimant is successful of not.
“I know from my work as a legal professional that even though not all of these claims are going to end up with money paid out, you're still losing because we still have to pay our lawyers. There are huge amounts of resources that get tied up in the council defending claims. Prevention is better than cure,” he said.
Responding to the councillors, Chief Executive Tim Lucey said the council spends €1 million per annum on footpath maintenance and that 120 pothole claims in the context of a county with approximately 12,500km of roads is not a worrying figure.
“We have committed a lot of funding over the last five to six years on footpath improvements,” he said.