VIC Public Liability - Who's Responsible for Slippery Pavements in Wet Weather?

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21 August 2015
I live in Melbourne where I would guess 99% of the sidewalks use either asphalt or some other form of coarse concrete which provides good traction in all weather conditions (puddles are a different matter). However there is this other 1% usually in front of newer high rises that use perfectly smooth flat concrete or granite tiles which while they may look aesthetically pleasing with the new architecture are a nightmare to walk on in the wet if you don't have proper tread on your footwear since your footwear will attempt to hydroplane out from underneath you!

While personally I have adapted and will always adjust my gait when I come across sections of the sidewalk like this, just today I witnessed two girls crossing one of these sections having to hold each other up for support as if crossing an ice rink.

My question is, who is meant to be responsible for choosing the construction materials for sidewalks and in the event a person did not catch their step in time (because the surface has the same grip as an oil spill at the first sign of water) who would have public liability - or would it be put down to user error for not ensuring they had adequate tread on their footwear?


Hi norlesh,

Who may be responsible to pedestrians for this situation, depends on whether it is private property or public property. Sidewalks are generally public, however there is obviously some agreement with the property developers here to use alternative finishes outside of their properties. Therefore, I would still tend to think local government would be somewhat liable for allowing it.

If local council were responsible, the standard duty of care to establish negligence is that a person will not be liable for harm unless the person knew or ought to have known of the risk, the risk was not insignificant, and a reasonable person in that person's position would have taken precautions against the risk. The situation is further complicated with public authorities however. They have certain defences to negligence actions which are not available to others and often they require actual notice of a problem before they are required to action it.

I would complain to council directly about the specific areas you are talking about including information about incidents that have occurred there and ask them directly who is responsible and if it is them, what can be done to rectify the situation.