Personal Injury Brief: latest decisions June 2019

A roundup of recent court decisions raising issues in relation to the duty of care owed by local authorities to protect individuals from third parties, the MIB’s liability with accidents occurring on private land, the test to avoid fixed costs, a limit on the widening duty of vicarious liability and a cost order outside a judge’s discretion.

No duty of care exists for local authorities to protect individuals from harm caused by third parties

CN v Poole Borough Council [06.06.19]

The Supreme Court confirmed there is no assumption of responsibility arising out of the mere operation of a social services function.

The claimants (two children) and their mother were rehoused to a housing estate known to have an ‘anti-social’ family living there. The family proceeded to subject the claimants to regular and significant harassment. The claimants and their mother were eventually relocated and pursued several unsuccessful claims against the local authority for the damages suffered.

The Supreme Court determined that there was no basis for the claimant’s assertions and as such, the claims remained struck out.

Contact: Helen Snowball

Related item: The Supreme Court upholds the strike out of claims seeking to impose a duty of care on a local authority arising out of its functions under the Children Act 1989

MIB liable to compensate when the incident occurs on private land

MIB v Michael Lewis a protected party) [05.06.19]

The MIB denied any liability to satisfy any judgment obtained against the driver as, pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), the accident had occurred on private land and as such did not fall within the definition of a ‘road’ and therefore insurance was not required.

The claimant was walking on private land when he was struck by a vehicle. There was no doubt that the driver was negligent but he was uninsured. The claimant sustained serious injuries and pursued a claim for compensation against the driver, the MIB and the Secretary of State for Transport.

The Court of Appeal held that the 2009 EU Directive conferred responsibility on the MIB as to provide compensation to victims of uninsured drivers on roads, private land and public places.

Contact: Mark Walsh

Related item: RTA requirements incompatible with the obligations under the EC directives

‘Exceptional circumstances’ test to avoid fixed costs is not a ‘low bar’

Ferri v Gill [17.04.19]

This High Court decision confirms that a strict approach should be taken when considering whether to permit more than fixed recoverable costs, pursuant to Part 45 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

The claimant, injured in a road traffic accident, initially had his claim progressed under the Claims Portal, but subsequently instructed new solicitors who confirmed they would be taking it out of the Claims Portal due to the extent of the losses. The claim settled without issue of proceedings in the sum of £42,000 and more than fixed costs were sought.

On appeal, the court confirmed that a strict approach should be taken and the case was remitted back to the Senior Costs Office.

Contact: Sandip Sidhu

Related item: High Court clarifies test for ‘exceptional circumstances’ in fixed costs cases

Employer not responsible for a defendant engaged on a ‘frolic’ of his own

Shelbourne v Cancer Research [09.04.19]

The Court of Appeal considered a number of factors to include the fact the Christmas party was an event for adults and attendance was not compulsory and that Mr Beilik’s presence had nothing to do with the work he undertook for the claimant’s employer.

The claimant brought a claim against her employer after sustaining an injury to her back. The accident occurred when she was picked up on the dance floor by a visiting scientist, Robert Beilik, who dropped her when he lost his balance. The claimant lost her case but appealed the decision.

On appeal, the court agreed with the decision at first instance that the extent of the duty of care did not require her employer to put in place measures to guard against the actions of a drunken party goer. It was also upheld that Mr Beilik’s act was not so closely connected with his employment that it would be fair and just to hold the defendant vicariously liable. He was engaged on a "frolic" of his own.

Contact: Greg Woods

Related item: Vicarious liability - is the party now over?

Order that a claimant should pay costs was outside a courts discretion

Hadley v Redbridge London Borough Council [04.04.19]

During the trial, the judge informed the parties that she had found it impossible to reach a judgment and was ordering a retrial. The judge made a number of criticisms of both parties and found the claimant's final submissions had been the final straw and as such the claimant should bear the costs of adjournment.

The claimant had been a teacher employed by the local authority. She was bullied by the school's head teacher and brought a claim against the defendant on the basis that they were vicariously liable.

The claimant successfully appealed against the costs order. The conclusion that the claimant was responsible for the adjournment could not be reconciled with earlier criticisms made of both parties, and the judge had taken into account irrelevant considerations, such as that the claimant would not have to pay personally as she was funded by a conditional fee arrangement. The appropriate order was found to be costs in the case.

Contact: Daniel Carnall

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