In 1991 a road accident occurred that rendered Mr. Geoffrey Jack paralyzed. He filed a law suit against the highway authority but the case was dismissed by Judge Hargrove Q.C. He appealed the case which was also dismissed due to a counter appeal filed by the highway authority.
The legal issue in this case is the neglecting of statutory duty by the highway authority as is expected of them. The plaintiff claimed that the highway authority had forfeited its constitutional duty to maintain the road in safe conditions for driving.
“Section 58 may give the authority a defence to a claim for damages but it is still in breach of the absolute duty. I do not think it is an admissible construction of section 44(1) of the Act of 1959 (and therefore of section 41(1) of the Act of 1980)” [381-385]
However there could not be a clear distinction between the duty of the authority to maintain the highway and pouring grit. The constitution stated that the authority has a duty to maintain the highway but it’s not spelt out whether pouring grit and salt on the road to prevent the formation of the very lethal threat in black ice forming on the road lies under maintaining the road. Brought to attention also was the authorities activities in that a lorry was dispatched to pour grit and salt on the road early in the morning but the lorry had not arrive. Mr Ross claimed a breach of statutory duty by the highway authority.
Ejusdem generis rule of language was employed in the case. The use of the word maintain was interpreted in its context as a general term which included pouring grit and salt on the road surface before dawn. In the rule, a word used in the context of others is assumed to be part of the same and in this case the pouring of the grit and salt was part of maintaining the road in good repair for safe public use. A presumption was made against changes in the common law in that the law that governed the people in the older days may not be applicable in the same scenario due to change of time and lifestyle of the people. Also due to a change in the responsibility since the duty to maintain the road was upon the highway authority unlike before when it was vested on the people. A rule of statutory interpretation that was employed was the golden rule. The constitution did not stipulate clearly the extent of the duty of the highway authority to maintain the road in good repair. If the literal rule were to be applied then the case would have been dismissed since pouring grit and salt on the road was not included as a measure of maintaining the road. However using the golden rule, an idea was brought up that maintaining it in good repair included keeping the road on safe conditions for motor activities and therefore pouring salt and grit lies under maintaining the road.
Hoffman used extrinsic aids to statutory interpretation. Such aids he used are for example referring to previous judgements that bear the same impact on the as at hand.
“It is not easy to fathom the draftsman’s mind but one clue may lie in a remark of Diplock L.J. in Burnside v. Emerson , 1496-1497 which I have already quoted in part:
“The duty… is… not merely to keep a highway in such a state of repair as it is at any particular time, but to put it in such good repair as renders it reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the” [212-219]
Another aid used by Hoffman was referral to other acts that bear the same incentive as the act upon which the case is based. In this case the act which Hoffman referred to was, for example,
“Thus section 38(1) provided that thenceforth “no duty with respect to the maintenance of a highway shall lie on the inhabitants at large of any area.” Section 38(2) provided that a highway which, immediately before the commencement of the Act, was maintainable by the inhabitants at large or maintainable by a highway authority, should be, for the purposes of the Act, a highway “maintainable at public expense””[128-133]
In preceding case, a judgement was made that dismissed the plaintiff’s cause that the highway authority had a duty to maintain the highway;
“In Griffiths v. Liverpool Corporation  Diplock L.J. interjected in the course of argument: “The defendants had a statutory duty to maintain the highway and the question of reasonable care has no relevance.”” [291-294]
The judgement was made in favour of the highway authority based on the fact that it did not lie in the jurisdiction of the authority to pour the salt and grit rather it was an extended eService that had not even been earlier construed as a duty of the authority.
“I do not think it is an admissible construction of section 44(1) of the Act of 1959 (and therefore of section 41(1) of the Act of 1980) to hold that it was capable of judicial extension to create a duty not only more onerous but different in kind from that which had existed in the past.” [383-387]