Highlands & Islands

South Uist man sues council after falling in dark

Michael Macdonald Image copyright Ciaran Donnelly
Image caption Michael Macdonald claimed that the lights normally stayed on all night

A man who fell down in the dark and broke his ankle is suing his local council for turning the street lights off.

Michael Macdonald, 30, fell in South Uist as he walked home from a friend's house at 02:00 on 27 November 2011.

He is now seeking £20,000 damages from Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The local authority is contesting the action.

Mr Macdonald, who at the time worked as a chef at the Lochboisdale Hotel on the island, said it was so dark on the night the accident happened that "if you put your hand up in front of your face you couldn't see it."

He said he had gone to visit a friend after work, and was walking home when he realised he had left his keys at his friend's house.

As he turned around, he caught the edge of a kerb and fell.

Mr Macdonald said he was left hanging onto the lamp post after the accident before people came to help him, as he couldn't stand.

Lights off

Mr Macdonald, who now lives in Bornish, also on South Uist, said he had been expecting the street lights to be on. He had been living in Lochboisdale for about two years at the time of the accident, and claimed that normally the lights would stay on all night.

He said there were no signs informing people that the lights were going off, and explained that had he known they were, he would have taken a torch.

Mr Macdonald said he was "very sure" that the accident would not have happened had the lights been on.

He said he still suffers stiffness and swelling following the fracture to his ankle.

The counsel said the court may hear evidence that the council had taken the decision to save money by switching the lights off, despite the fact that the council knew "or ought to have known" that Lochboisdale had a population of about 300 residents.

The court heard that staff and customers at the hotel might use the street in question after midnight, and also that the Barra ferry occasionally came in after that time.

The judge hearing the action, Lord Matthews, was told that damages had been agreed at £20,000 if liability was established.

Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar is contesting the case, which continues.

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