Nuala Ryan v Tipperary County Council

Loose pebbles on sloping tarmac


On the 4th January 2011, Ms Nuala Ryan, the Pursuer, was cycling her daily route in the laneway near St. Bernadette’s Terrace, County Tipperary.

Her bicycle came into contact with pebbles on the laneway, which she described as ‘marbles on top of a skating rink.’ Her bicycle wheels suddenly skidded, causing her to lose balance and she fell to the ground. 

She suffered pain in her left leg and fractured her lumbar spine. She was required to wear a spinal brace for over 3 months.


The Pursuer’s argument was that the incident had been caused due to the construction of the laneway. The design was such that the tarmac on the laneway sloped, in turn causing stones to accumulate at a gully trap.

The Defenders told the Court that some of the potholes that were subject to repair work had been repaired by placing stones in the holes.

It was their position that this work had been carried out by a Third Party, and not by themselves, and so liability should not attach to them. However, as the Council, they were still responsible for the works that had been carried out on the road.

The Court held that the design of the laneway caused a nuisance to persons using it due to the stones and debris on the surface. It was reasonably foreseeable that if the gully and tarmac surface were constructed in such a way that produces a slope, then the resulting accumulation of pebbles would cause a trap for persons using the laneway.

The Pursuer, Nuala Ryan, was awarded over £66,000.


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