Clarity from the courts on errors in a Stage 3 Pack

Matloob v EUI Ltd [17.07.19]

Following the hearing of the defendant’s appeal in the Birmingham County Court, the decision of His Honour Judge Murdoch was handed down today (17 July 2019), providing much needed clarity on how courts ought to approach incorrect figures being transcribed in the Court Proceedings Pack (CPP).

Background

As a result of a road traffic incident involving the claimant and the defendant’s insured on 7 April 2017, the claimant sustained personal injury and subsequently pursued a claim for damages, which included a claim for physiotherapy treatment.

The matter proceeded via the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Portal in the ordinary way but without settlement being reached. Consequently, the claimant submitted a CPP to the defendant with a view to commencing Stage 3 Proceedings and for the matter to be determined at an oral hearing.

However, when completing Part B of the CPP, the claimant’s solicitor amended the claimant’s offer to reflect a revised position in respect of physiotherapy treatment, meaning that it no longer reflected the final offer at Stage 2.

EUI objected to the amendment, reminding the claimant’s solicitor that the Part B form must only contain offers that have been communicated on the Stage 2 Settlement Pack form, and requested a revised pack be provided.

The matter proceeded to a final Stage 3 oral hearing without a revised CPP being provided and came before Deputy District Judge Singh on 5 February 2019. The claimant was awarded damages and an additional punitive uplift in respect of damages and interest as a consequence of beating its own incorrectly amended Part B offer.

The appeal

The defendant appealed on the basis that, as the sum listed on the Part B Form for the claimant’s final offer did not match that on the Stage 2 Settlement Pack, it was not a valid Protocol Offer (under the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents (the MoJ Protocol). The defendant asserted therefore that the offer ought to be treated as void for the purposes of Rule 36.29 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), and as such, that no uplift ought to have been awarded.

The appeal came before HHJ Murdoch on 15 May 2019.

HHJ Murdoch provided clear and authoritative guidance that the Part B Form must contain the final offer and counter offer from the Stage 2 Settlement Pack. Further, in the event that the amount listed on the Part B Form differs, then it is not a valid Protocol Offer for the purposes of Rule 36.25 or 36.29 of the CPR.

As the claimant had failed to make a valid Protocol Offer, it was held that the Judge at first instance had been mistaken in their approach and the order for an uplift of damages and interest was set aside.

Commentary

Clarification provided by HHJ Murdoch fills a void left within the CPR and MoJ Protocol and serves to provide defendant’s with an added layer of protection to combat increasing non-compliance with the MoJ Protocol.

The MoJ Protocol was introduced to provide a quick and simple system for the processing of low value claims for personal injury and this judgment provides a clear reminder of the court’s approach when faced with situations where there is a departure from the ethos of those rules.

This decision is a valuable addition to the growing body of case law to ensure that defendant insurers have the tools available to ensure that they are afforded a fair hearing and that any non-compliance is robustly defended.