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Failure to follow procedural rules results in striking out of public liability claim

Minabahen Patel v Daniel Batham & Son Limited
1.12.15
Walsall County Court

Helen Morris and Denise Brosnan examine the evidence in this striking out of a public liability claim following a sign falling onto a pedestrian.  

Facts

The Defendant operated a pub (the Lamp Tavern Pub) in Dudley and a swinging sign was fixed to the exterior wall of the pub overhanging the pavement.

The Claimant claimed that whilst she was walking past the pub the sign fell onto her left leg causing injury.  The Defendant admitted that the sign had fallen onto the pavement but denied that anybody was around at the time and therefore the Claimant could not have been injured.  Liability was denied throughout the claim by the Defendant.

There were three issues for the Court to determine:

  1. Whether the sign attached to the outside of the Defendant’s premises had fallen onto the Claimant.

  2. If the sign had fallen onto the Claimant, whether liability for the sign falling should lie with the Defendant.

  3. If the Defendant was at fault then the Court would be required to assess quantum.

At trial, the Claimant, who spoke little English, was accompanied by a translator whilst giving her evidence.  The Claimant confirmed on oath at the beginning of the trial that both statements appearing in the trial bundle, the English version and the translated version bore her signature. 

During cross examination her account changed and there were several inconsistencies in the version of events she gave at court compared with the account she had previously given.  Defendant’s counsel therefore referred the Claimant back to her original statement in order to clarify her case.  Upon turning to the non-English version of her statement which appeared in the bundle, the Claimant admitted to not being able to read it as it was written in Hindi whereas the Claimant’s main language was Gujarati. 

The Claimant admitted to signing a statement of truth despite not being able to read her own statement.  She told the Court that the claims management company had taken her statement over the phone and then, for reasons unknown, written it in Hindi for the Claimant to sign with the reassurance that the Hindi version matched what the Claimant had said over the telephone.

Findings

The claim came before Deputy District Judge Downton. Given that the Claimant could not read either statement contained in the trial bundle this left the Claimant with no witness statement to rely upon and the Court proceeded on its own initiative to strike out the claim.  

Costs

Following the striking out of the claim, Defendant’s counsel made an immediate application pursuant to CPR 44.15(c) to dis-apply QOCS on the basis that the Claimant’s conduct (the signing of a statement of truth without being able to read the contents of the document) had obstructed the just disposal of the proceedings.   The Claimant knew of the existence of the claim and the nature of the proceedings and had continued pursuing the claim with full knowledge that she could not read the documents.  The Claimant had done nothing to correct that prior to trial and had even confirmed on oath that she could read the statement.

However, DDJ Downton held that the Claimant continued to benefit from QOCS protection as there was nothing to suggest that the Claimant herself was a fraudster. 

Comment

The case serves as a reminder that the requirements set out in paragraph 3A of the Practice Direction to CPR 22 must be adhered to where the person making the statement is unable to read or sign documents requiring verification by a statement of truth.  Failure to follow the rules risks the striking out of the entire case.

Contact

For further information please contact Helen Morris, Solicitor on +44 121 200 0487 or Denise Brosnan, Partner on +44 121 200 0415. 

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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