piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Costs budgeting: are incurred costs untouchable?

How do you get around costs budgeting? One might have thought by incurring considerable costs before the CCMC: Practice direction 3E 7.4 states that the court may not approve costs incurred before the date of a budget. In CIP Properties Ltd v Galliford Try Infrastructure [2015] EWHC 481 Coulson J came up with an order which would prevent parties to litigation trying to get around the process. In the recent case of GSK Project Management Ltd v QPR Holdings Limited [2015] EWHC 2274 Stuart-Smith J made a similar order (will it become known as a ‘Coulson Order’ or a ‘CIP Order?) In GSK Stuart-Smith J was managing the costs in a dispute over works carried out at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road ground. The claim was essentially for £805,675 of unpaid sums due under the contract and there was a counterclaim for defective works. The claimant’s costs budget was for £824,038 and it stated that over £310,000 had been incurred already. The budget therefore exceeded the sums at stake. The defendant’s budget was £455,554 in total although, as the judge commented, a comparison was not appropriate because of the very different hourly rates; comparing the hours was therefore more illuminating. ‘Broad brush’ or detailed approach? Stuart-Smith J commented that experience in the TCC had shown that most costs budgeting reviews can and should be carried out quickly and with the application of a fairly broad brush. He said that ‘only exceptionally will it be appropriate or necessary to go through a Precedent H with a fine tooth-comb, analysing the makeup of figures in detail.’ This, however, he considered an exceptional case because the aggregate sum was so disproportionate to the sums at stake and the length and complexity of the case. Proportionality: The judge’s starting point was that a case would have to be wholly exceptional to render a costs budget of £824,000 proportional for the recovery of £805,000 plus interest. It was not. There were no novel or difficult issues of law, there was only a handful of witnesses, trial had only been listed for 4 days and it was not a document heavy case. He took the view that good reason would need to be shown to justify more than half the figure of £825,000 on proportionality grounds. Reasonableness: the judge rejected the submission that his starting point should be the other party’s budget as parties have different roles and responsibilities. However he accepted he should have regard to it as it ‘may provide useful indicators’. The judge rebuffed a submission that the Defendant had underestimated the resources necessary for the litigation with the comment that such a submission would “probably require evidence and not mere assertion”. That evidence was not available. Pre-action costs: the lesson to draw from the judge’s comments is that if pre-action costs/hours are high then a judge is likely to expect solicitors to be ‘well on top of the case by the time of issue’. If little progress has been made the judge is likely to consider the time has ‘not been reasonably or proportionately incurred.’ The judge said that if he could approve pre-action costs he would have approved £13,500 rather than the £43,067 incurred. Issue/statements of case: the incurred costs for this phase were £246,908. The judge was very critical of the lack of explanation of what had been done during the hours billed given they were so high. He ultimately concluded that £115,000 would have been a reasonable and proportionate expenditure on this phase. Remaining phases: the judge took a hatchet to the remaining phases of the budget on the basis of what he considered reasonable and proportionate. By the time he had finished he had reduced it to £422,622 which, as “it turns out” (he observed), was almost exactly the same as his first assessment of proportionality of the sums being estimated. He then rounded the budget up to £425,000. The court’s difficulty: The problem for the judge was that his £425,000 would have involved substituting his figures for incurred costs which he was not entitled to do. The judge referred to the options Coulson J had set out in CIP Properties (AIPT) Limited v Galliford Try Infrastructure Limited [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC) namely: Order a new budget Declining to approve the claimant’s costs budget Set budget figures and allowing the relevant party to take their chances on incurred costs Refuse to allow any further costs Coulson J settled on (iii) but identified the difficulty: it potentially enabled the claimant to ride roughshod over the budgeting process. The incurred costs were untouchable (£310,000 in GSK ) in the budgeting process but if they were allowed on assessment, they would potentially enable the claimant to exceed the budget set at the CCMC. Coulson J’s way around this was to say effectively to any subsequent costs judge, “if you assess the costs incurred above my figure then you will have to reduce the amount for later work because my estimate will need to be adjusted accordingly.” He put it in a more judicial way setting out the figure he approved for each phase and making the following comment: “I take that figure into account when assessing each element of the prospective/estimated costs dealt with below. To the extent that the claimant recovers more than £x.xx on assessment under this head, it would mean that more work had been legitimately done in the earlier stages of the case than I thought, which would in turn mean that less remained to be done in the future. Thus the prospective costs figures approved below would fall to be reduced by an equivalent sum.” Stuart-Smith J adopted the same approach and stated “in this way the incurred costs/approved costs budget will be a total of £425,000.” He referred succintly to “97(a) of CIP Properties”. The judge concluded by describing the costs estimate as “grossly excessive” being overstated by almost 100%. He made the claimant pay the costs of the issue and ordered the claimant’s solicitors to bring the terms of the judgment to the attention of any paying client who had retained them and to notify the court when it had been done.

Sherlock Holmes in the Court of Appeal

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”    The Sign of Four begins with a bored Holmes mired in cocaine addiction, much to the disquiet of Dr Watson. A young woman appears. She has a mystery that needs solving. Holmes solves it. He is cured from his addiction and, by the end of the book, the young woman is set to become Mrs Watson.    Amidst all the action comes the pronouncement quoted at the start of this post. It has become one of Holmes’ most enduring dicta on the science of deduction; so enduring, in fact, that his deer-stalkered head was reared in the Court of Appeal last month. The case was Graves v Brouwer [2015] EWCA Civ 595. It concerned a house fire, but the principles are of general application to many cases where a court is obliged to wrestle with competing theories as to causation.    Mr Brouwer and Ms Graves were next-door neighbours. Mr Brouwer was an odd man: he described himself as controlling to the point of being “anal”, a description the judge was happy to adopt. One day he decided to dispose of a small quantity of papers by burning them in the passage by the side of his house. He set them alight and then doused the ashes with a hose. Shortly thereafter, Ms Graves’ house caught fire. In due course she brought a claim against Mr Brouwer, alleging that the fire he started had somehow spread to her house.    Both parties instructed experts. They agreed that the chances of an ember containing sufficient residual energy to start a fire escaping from Mr Brouwer’s passageway and travelling to the eaves of Ms Graves house’ was small. However, the other possibilities were also not particularly attractive. One that was mentioned was “anting”, i.e. birds picking up smoldering cigarette ends and transporting them back to their nests. But there was no positive evidence of birds nesting under the eaves of Ms Graves house. The only other theory that was posited was that persons unknown had deliberately set fire to Ms Graves’ house, i.e. arson.   During cross-examination, Mr Brouwer’s expert was asked whether, if the court took the view that arson did not cause the fire, then on the balance of probabilities, the fire started by Mr Brouwer had to be the cause of the fire in the Claimant’s house, even if improbable. He replied in the affirmative.   The trial judge held that, but for the expert’s concession in cross-examination, she would have been minded to dismiss the claim on causation. But, having rejected the arson theory and the concession having being made, she felt compelled to find for the claimant on causation. She went on to find, however, that Mr Brouwer had not been negligent in the way he has carried out the “burn” and so the claim failed anyway. Both parties appealed. Ms Graves appealed the finding of negligence; Mr Brouwer cross-appealed the finding on causation.   The Court of Appeal took the opportunity to conduct a helpful exposition of the correct principles from the authorities, stretching back to the case in which Holmes made his first appearance in this field, namely The Popi M [1985] 1 WLR 948. That case was about a ship had been lost at sea. The trial judge was Bingham J (as he then was). The House of Lords held that he had fallen into error in deciding the case on causation because he had (albeit implicitly) translated Holmes’ dictum too willingly into a legal context.   What works in a fictional detective story does always not work in court of law. In practice, it is rare to be able eliminate all other possibilities. Some may exist but not have been suggested to the court; others will have been suggested but it will be impossible to eliminate them entirely due to deficiencies in the evidence. So it is incumbent upon a judge to step back and ask themselves whether a particular cause is more likely than not to be the correct one. The exercise is not one of identifying the least unlikely cause and then declaring that the correct one. If, having heard all the evidence, the judge remains of the view that the causal mechanism which establishes the claim is improbable then the claimant has failed to discharge the burden of proof and the claim must fail.    In Graves v Brouwer the Court of Appeal held, applying The Popi M, that the judge had been wrong to place the reliance she did on the expert’s answer in cross-examination. It went further. The question, it said, should not have been asked at all because it invite him to express a conclusion of question of mixed fact and law which it was the task of the judge to reach. The judge had, as a result, fallen into the same error as Bingham J in The Popi M by applying the Holmesian dictum too literally. She should have asked herself whether, all things considered, a flying ember from the fire started by Mr Brouwer was more likely than not to have caused the fire. She had not done so and hence had misdirected herself. So the Court of Appeal allowed Mr Brouwer’s appeal on causation. (It also, incidentally, upheld the judge’s finding on negligence for good measure). Judges may think they know all they need to know about probability because they apply the balance of probabilities every day. But if a judge as capable as the late Sir Thomas Bingham can get it wrong then any judge can get it wrong. Graves v Brouwer is a useful case to use if you want to ensure that they get it right.

Contribution, limitation and the Athens Convention

In South West Strategic Health Authority v Bay Island Voyages [2015] EWCA Civ 708 the Court of Appeal considered the scope of the Athens Convention and the nature of the time-bar in Article 16. In coming to its decision, the Court also considered sections 5(1) and 5(2) of the Carriage by Air Act 1961. In the main action, Dr Feest claims damages for personal injury arising out of an accident which occurred whilst she was a passenger on board The Celtic Pioneer in the Bristol Channel. Her original solicitors missed the two-year time limit for bringing claims under the Athens Convention against the carrier ('BIV'). She issued proceedings against her employer ('SWSHA') one day before the expiry of the three-year time limit under section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980. SWSHA brought a claim for contribution against BIV which was struck out by the district judge. His order was upheld on appeal.  The first issue for the Court of Appeal was whether claims for contribution are encompassed by Article 14 of the Convention which states “no action for damages for the …personal injury to a passenger… shall be brought against a carrier…otherwise than in accordance with this Convention.” On appeal, HHJ Havelock-Allan QC held that Article 14 encompassed contribution claims ([2014] EWHC 177 QB). The Court of Appeal disagreed. The Athens Convention only claims to unify ‘certain rules relating to the carriage by sea of passengers and their luggage’. It is not a complete code and does not encompass contribution claims which are autonomous and derive from the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978. In reaching this conclusion the Court looked at Australian, US and Canadian cases on the equivalent provisions under the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions. The Court of Appeal then considered the nature of the time-bar under Article 16. The importance of this is that SWSHA would not have had a claim for contribution against BIV under the Contribution Act if the effect of Article 16 was to extinguish the cause of action rather than bar the remedy. The Court found that the effect of the words of Article 16 in the light of Financial Services Compensation Scheme Limited v Larnell (Insurances) Limited (in liquidation) [2006] QB 808 (which considered the similarly-worded section 14B of the Limitation Act 1980) was to bar the remedy – unless there was an international consensus upon the understanding of the provision. The Court looked at the French text and concluded that the natural meaning of the French words was to bar the remedy. This understanding was also consistent with language (‘Verjaehrungsfrist’) used in the German Commercial Code. Accordingly Article 16 operated to bar the remedy and not extinguish the cause of action and therefore SWSHA’s contribution claim survived. In reaching their conclusion on Articles 14 and 16 the Court of Appeal also looked at section 5(1) and 5(2) of the Carriage by Air Act 1961 which incorporates the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions into UK law. Of note is its comment that section 5(1) provides a time limit for actions against carrier’s servants or agents, which actions are not themselves within the scope of the Warsaw Convention. John Ross QC and Ian Miller of 1 Chancery Lane acted for the successful appellant.

Car vs Cyclist: Apportionment of liabilty

Fenella Sinclair (A protected person by her litigation friend & daughter) v Rachel Joyner [2015] EWHC 1800 (QB). The Claimant was cycling along a rural road. She was in the middle  of the road, standing on her pedals. She was not wearing a helmet. The Defendant was driving her car along the same road in the opposite direction. She had just come around a bend when she saw the Claimant. She had not been travelling very fast before the bend and she immediately slowed down to around 20 mph. That was the speed she was travelling when she passed the Claimant. Her evidence also was that she was as far over to the nearside of her lane as possible. As the car and and the bike passsed one another their wheels collided.  The Claimant lost control and fell.  She suffered multiple injuries, including a severe brain injury. She was left with a permanently impaired conscious level. The trial was liability only. The Claimant's case was that the Defendant had not kept a proper look out and had failed to properly assess the hazard presented by the Cliamant who was in the middle of the road stadning on her pedals. The Defendant maintained that as she approached and past the Claimant she was driving slowly and appropriately. She reasonably considered the Claimant to present a hazard which required her to do no more than slow down and drive past her. The Claimant lost control of her bike and deviated unexpectedly onto the Defendant's side of the road so that contact occurred. She (the Defendant) was not responsible for that. Mrs Justic Cox held: 1. The courts must not fall into the trap of imposing a counsel of perfection on car drivers. 2. Nevertheless, cyclists are amongst the most vulnerable of road users. The Highway Code expressly says so and advises car drivers to give them plenty of room. 3. The Claimant was on her side of the road but only just. She was also standing on her pedals. The evidence suggested that she was grimacing or loooking uncomfortable. 4. In all the circumstances, a reasonably prudent driver would have appplied the brakes immediately and stopped to allow the Claimant to pass safely. The Defendant did not do that and primary liability was therefore established against her. 5. In terms of contributory negligence, the Claimant should not have been riding in the middle of the road. Her conduct in doing so materially contributed to the damage and was negligent. 6. In assessing apportionment: "The causative potency of the motor vehicle is highly significant in assessing apportionment. There was a risk of very serious injury to the Claimant in this case if the Volvo were to collide with her...the appropriate apportionment of fault for the Claimant in this case is 25 per cent" 7. The Defendant had pleaded that failure to wear a helmet was contributorily negligent. It was not explored in evidence, however, and was not addressed in the Defendant's closing submissions. The judge said that there was no medical evidence adduced to show that failure to wear a helmet had made the injury worse. The allegation was therefore rejected.   Comment This strikes me as placing really quite an onerous burden on drivers. After all, the Claimant was in the middle of the road, on her pedals and approaching a bend. The Defendant was not speeding, she slowed down and she was as far over to the nearside as possible. To suggest that she ought to have stopped completely seems too high a requirement. The case is also worth a read because it involved live evidence from the parties' accident reconstruction experts. The Defendant's expert appears to have been so poor in evidence that, ultimately, counsel did not rely on him. The judge thought this was wise and was critical of his report and his oral evidence.   Sophie Mortimer

Expert evidence in road traffic cases

Is the evidence of an expert in cycling safety reasonably required in a personal injury claim arising out of an accident which the claimant alleges was caused by the highway authority’s breach of duty (in respect of maintenance, layout etc)? At a Case Management conference in the case of Allen v Cornwall Council [2015] EWHC 1461 the District Judge gave the claimant permission to rely on such evidence to deal with allegations of contributory negligence made by the defendant. He refused to grant the defendant permission to rely on its own evidence.  In the case of Liddell v Middleton (7th July 1995, Unreported), the Court of Appeal gave guidance as to the admissibility of expert evidence in road traffic claims. Stuart-Smith L.J. said that in such cases the function of the expert is to furnish the judge with the necessary scientific criteria and assistance based upon his special skill and experience not possessed by ordinary laymen to enable the judge to interpret the factual evidence of the marks on the road, the damage, or whatever it may be. What he is not entitled to do is reach conclusions on facts or give his opinion on whether there was a breach of duty. In Liddell the Court of Appeal found the ‘expert’ had overstepped the mark and given evidence which was entirely irrelevant and inadmissible. The defendant in Allen appealed the District Judge’s order and the case was heard by Green J. He would not interfere with what was a case management decision of the district judge. Green J found that the district judge was addressing a threshold issue as to whether the evidence should be admitted for the purpose of case management but, he had made it clear it was without prejudice to any more mature and considered view which a trial judge might take. He had not given the defendant permission to have its own report because it might see the expert evidence of the claimant and decide that it wanted to abandon allegations of contributory negligence altogether. Green J held that the district judge had not seen the expert’s report at the time he made his decision and therefore he was not in a position to assess its content; he took account of the fact his decision would not bind the trial judge. Green J thought that the facts of the case were somewhat unusual (as it was not a case of a collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle but one involving the condition and layout of the highway). He did not rule on the admissibility of the evidence but thought the judge had not acted outside the generous ambit afforded to a judge exercising his case management powers. Green J acknowledged the ‘practical force’ of the defendant’s complaint that the judge should have required the report to be prepared and produced before granting permission. Indeed the defendant’s suggestion that this would have been the appropriate course was commended as ‘sensible’. It is notably the course commended by the Court of Appeal in Casey v Cartwright in the context of low velocity road traffic accident litigation. But Green J did not think the judge had erred in not adopting this approach. This case raises an interesting question as to when exactly the threshold is reached for the granting of permission for expert evidence at the case management stage: when is expert evidence ‘reasonably required’ (CPR 35.1)? In Casey the question was whether, once the judge had seen the expert evidence, the issue itself had a ‘real prospect of success’. Liddell v Middleton and the decision in Allen tend to suggest that at the case management stage the question is no more than whether it is arguable that the evidence is admissible - the final decision rests with the trial judge. The questions the expert was to examine included where a cyclist should be positioned on a carriageway and whether he was cycling too fast or should have dismounted where visibility was poor. Do such questions require expert evidence? If so, why not in cases involving motorcycling, lorry driving and other modes of transport which may be outside the experience of a trial judge? It will be interesting to see what the trial judge decides. In the meantime it is striking that, at the appeal, Green J gave the defendant permission to rely on its own expert evidence before it had seen the evidence of the claimant. Draw what conclusions you will… (Ian Miller represented the defendant on the appeal)

Have we started yet? Commencement of contested hearing and CFA uplifts

When a trial begins is of obvious import to any litigant where one or more party is funded by a conditional fee agreement which provides for an uplift per CPR 45.16 and 45.17. Mrs Justice Slade in a recent appeal from Master Campbell held that a contested hearing on the issue of liability had yet to commence before a subsequent settlement.   The facts of James v Ireland [2015] EWHC 1259 (QB) are unusual but not exceptional.   On the first day of a three day trial of a personal injuries case, the claimant successfully applied for an adjournment of the issue of quantum, it being intended that the issue of liability would proceed. Unusually however, late evidence disclosed by the defendant that hitherto unidentified independent witness. To allow for a statement to be taken from the same by the claimant, the matter was adjourned to the following day. The judge asked counsel what to read overnight. The next day it was revealed that attempts to contact the elusive independent witness had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the case was adjourned to the afternoon so that attempts could continue. These attempts were also fruitless, however given the likely importance of the witness the case was stood out. The judge reserved the matter to himself for a hearing at a later date. This hearing never took place as the claim was settled.   Had the liability trial commenced? The master held that it had. Counsel had entered court. Reading had commenced. Submissions had been provided and considered as to the adjournments. Thus, it was held that the claimant was entitled to the 100 percent costs uplift.   The defendant appealed, arguing that the master erred by failing to hold that nothing in the heard proceedings constituted a core event, such as would indicate that the liability trial had begun (Cutler v Stephenson and Manchester City Council [2008] EWHC 3622 (QB); Gandy v King [2010] EWHC 90177 (Costs)). It was further submitted that the judge would have held that the case was part heard had he considered the trial to have begun, rather than ordered it to be relisted reserved to himself. The claimant argued that the trial had begun as the judge had done pre-reading and that the submissions on the quantum aspect of the case would not have required further elucidation to open as to liability.   The Defendant’s submissions found favour with Mrs Justice Slade who held that a final contested hearing of the liability issue was not triggered by the commencement of any hearing of any nature related to the same. The hearing which was commenced was akin to a case management hearing, as the same did not consider any aspect necessary to determine the question of liability. The reading undertaken by the judge was held to have been prudent use of court time rather than a substantive consideration of a core issue. She held further that the transcripts actually supported the contention that the judge was unaware of the scope of the main issues of the case as to liability when the matter was stood out.

Relief from Sanctions / Strike Out - Is it "worth a go"?

Last week the Commercial Court dealt out a salutary warning to Parties whom are seen to opportunistically attempt to take advantages of defaults by their opponents.   Mr Justice Popplewell in the case of Viridor Waste Management Ltd v Veolia ES Ltd (unreported, QBD (Comm) 22 May 2015) awarded a claimant its costs assessed on the indemnity basis in circumstances where it was held that the defendant had taken unreasonable advantage of the claimant’s late service of particulars of claim in the hope of securing an opportunistic strike out. It was held that in the circumstances, relief from sanctions was the obviously appropriate outcome.   The facts however do not appear to be starkly in favour of the eventual outcome before the Court.   Here, the claimant’s Claim Form (claiming some £32 million for unjust enrichment) was served four days late. This was overlooked by the defendant and in without prejudice discussions a twenty-eight day extension for service of particulars of claim was agreed. However, the claimant defaulted on this agreement (the second default in the short history of the case) when these particulars were not only served a day late, but were done so by second class post, which is a method of service unrecognised by the CPR. The Claimant subsequently re-served by hand, email and first class post, albeit five days beyond the agreed deadline.   Rather than consent to the claimant’s application for an extension of time for service, the defendant applied to strike out on the grounds that the delay itself and failure of the method of service were serious breaches of important rules of procedure. It was also argued that to allow an extension would also effectively extend limitation on the facts of this case.   In the author’s opinion, the grounds put forward by the defendant had  some merit and given the potential value of the case, may well be one where a party is urged to “have a go” albeit perhaps opportunistically. The claimant had defaulted previously and the tenor of the so-called ‘Jackson reforms’ is to consider default from procedural canon to be serious.   Popplewell J however disagreed with the Defendant and your author. He held that it was unrealistic to regard any delay as being always “serious and significant”. On the facts of this case, it was held that the default should be “measured” to being just a few hours late, given the fact that the particulars of claim were in the defendant’s hands via second class post the day after that when service was due. A purposive approach was taken to the rule of service, and it was held that the said delay of a few hours would not have had any real impact on the course of litigation, other litigation or other court users were it not for the defendant’s application. Applying the Court of Appeal’s guidance in Mitchell and Denton therefore, it was held that the breach was immaterial and thus relief should be granted.   Unfortunately for it, things did not end there for the beleaguered defendant. The court held because it was obvious that relief from sanctions ought to be granted in this case, the actions of the defendant were an attempt to take unreasonable advantage of the claimant’s default in the hope of obtaining a windfall strike-out. This, and the defendant’s refusal to consent to the claimant’s application, was held to have caused further delay in this litigation as well as a negative impact upon other court users. Thus the claimant was awarded not only its costs, but they were to be assessed on the indemnity basis too.

New law - fundamental dishonesty in PI claims

The government brought into force last week a new law preventing claimants from recovering damages for personal injury when they have been fundamentally dishonest, unless it would cause substantial injustice. In the case of Summers v Fairclough Homes Ltd  [2012] UKSC 26 the claimant was injured in an accident at work and claimed more than £800,000 from his employer. Surveillance revealed him to have grossly exaggerated the effect of his injuries. At trial he was found to have fraudulently misstated the extent of his claim but the judge declined to strike out his claim and awarded £88,716. The defendant appealed and the Supreme Court held that it had jurisdiction to strike out the claimant’s statement of case but that it would only be done in exceptional circumstances, not least as the judgment on liability amounted to a possession for the purposes of the ECHR. The claim was not struck out. Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 looks as though it would have changed the outcome of Summers dramatically. Here are some of the ingredients and likely problems: ‘fundamental dishonesty’ - the defendant has to prove on the balance of probabilities that the claimant has been ‘fundamentally dishonest’  - a concept which the courts have been grappling with since its introduction in CPR Part 44.16(1) as an exception to the rules on qualified one way costs shifting. Considerable uncertainty remains as to the difference between ‘dishonesty’ and ‘fundamental dishonesty’. ‘primary claim or a related claim’ – the fundamental dishonesty must be ‘in relation to the primary claim or a related claim’. It will be interesting to see how far the courts will go in construing ‘a related claim’ which is defined at s.57(8) as “a claim for damages in respect of personal injury which is made (a) in connection with the same incident or series of incidents in connection with which the primary claim is made, and (b) by a person other than the person who made the primary claim.” ‘application by the defendant’ - the court cannot dismiss the claim under s.57 unless an application is made by the defendant for its dismissal. ‘substantial injustice’ – the court ‘must dismiss the primary claim’ unless satisfied the claimant would suffer ‘substantial injustice’ if it were dismissed. Again, it is not clear what the difference is between ‘injustice’ and ‘substantial injustice’. How is a judge to decide? Would the depriving a claimant of £88,716 amount to a substantial injustice? It is likely that the courts will want to give very careful thought to the needs of the injured claimant (care, economic etc) and consider how well they will be met in the event that the money is not paid over. What will happen to claims for gratuitous care which a claimant is supposed to hold on trust for the providers of that care? They may have nothing to do with the claimant’s dishonesty and yet might find themselves deprived of thousands of pounds for the hours they have given. I anticipate that a large body of case law will quickly grow up around this section. Recording damages – the court must record the amount of damages it would have awarded the claimant and then deduct them from the amount it would otherwise have awarded the defendant in costs. The dismissal of the claim under s.57 must be taken into account in a sentence handed down in any subsequent criminal proceedings S.57 only applies to claims issued after 13th April 2015. Mr Summers may well have been £88,716 poorer had this section been enacted prior to the issue of his proceedings. It will be interesting to see how often section 57 is pleaded and what the courts make of the concepts of ‘fundamental dishonesty’, ‘substantial injustice’ and ‘related claims’.

Employer not liable for employee killed in air disaster

Yesterday, Mr Justice Coulson delivered an extensive judgment in the case of Cassley and Others v GMP Securities Europe LLP & Sundance Resources Limited [2015] EWHC 722 (QB), in which he dismissed the claim for damages brought by the estate of the Deceased (James Cassley) against his employer (GMP) and its client (Sundance), an Australian mining company, who chartered the ill-fated flight. This case was heard only weeks after the decision in Dusek v Stormharbour Securities LLP [2015] EWHC 37 (QB) in which an employer was found to be liable for the death of its employee on facts that were superficially similar to the present. The judgment is of significance to the developing field of employer liability in negligence for death of and/or injuries caused by third party carriers to its staff when engaged in overseas travel. In particular, the judgment provides guidance as to the standards of care that are expected, and perhaps more significantly not to be expected, from employers. GMP were successfully defended by John Ross QC and Kiril Waite instructed by Berrymans Lace Mawer LLP. In 2010, Sundance had approached GMP, who were the London division of a Canadian investment bank, with a view to retaining their services in raising capital for its mining project in Nabeba, Democratic Republic of Congo. The Deceased was a corporate finance executive employed by GMP. He was invited to join Sundance’s board of directors on a private charter flight from Yaoundé, Cameroon to an airstrip used by the mine project in the Congo. Tragically, the flight never reached its destination. The aircraft struck the side of a mountain ridge some 70km short of the airstrip and all aboard were killed. The claim against GMP was brought both for breach of statutory duty and in negligence at common law, based on the non-delegable duties owed by an employer to its employee. The central allegation in the case was that GMP made no risk assessment and no enquiries into the air carrier chartered for the flight. It was asserted that, had they done so, the results of those enquiries would have led them to conclude that it was not safe for the Deceased to have boarded the flight to the Congo. Moreover it was contended that the risk assessment for this one-off trip ought to have been undertaken by an aviation consultant or auditor who also would have known what enquiries to make.   On the undisputed facts, there had been a last-minute change in the air carrier for the flight to the Congo, which GMP did not know nor could reasonably have been expected to know. Accordingly any risk assessment or enquiries made would have been in respect of the original carrier. The factual matrix was complicated by the fact that prior to the Deceased boarding the flight, Sundance required that GMP sign a confidentiality agreement which included a clause that purported to require that it would indemnify Sundance for any injury or death caused to the Deceased. That agreement was never properly executed and not therefore binding. In closing the Claimants sought to advance a new case on causation based on this agreement, namely that no reasonable employer, who had been asked to sign such an agreement, would have permitted its employee to board the plane. Coulson J found that whilst GMP was in breach of its own internal health and safety policy and had failed to make any enquiries about the flight with Sundance, who were the flight charterer, these failings did not amount to an operative breach of duty. He rejected the contention that a company such as GMP ought to have instructed an aviation consultant from the outset. In his judgment Coulson J gives consideration to the types of enquiries that a reasonable employer should make, such as consulting the FCO website. However on the facts of this case, those enquiries would have made no difference to the outcome. Ultimately the claim against GMP failed on causation. There was no evidence before the court that the original air carrier, which GMP had expected would be used, was anything but safe. Even assuming that GMP had found out about the last minute change in carrier, the results from any enquiries that it could reasonably have been expected to make would have led it to reach the conclusion that the substitute air carrier was a safe carrier choice for this flight. The Claimant's new case on causation based on the confidentiality agreement was also rejected by Coulson J. It was a complete non-sequitur for an employer faced with such a document to simply deny its employee entry on board the flight.  The claim against Sundance also failed on the ground that, although Sundance had assumed a duty of care to the Deceased, it had undertaken reasonable enquiries into the suitability of the substitute carrier it selected for the index flight. Claims against employers whose staff are injured or killed in aviation disasters have become something of a burgeoning area in the arena of employer’s liability. This judgment will provide valuable guidance to those involved in this expanding field of litigation.  

Heracles, the Hydra and Basic Hire Rates

In Greek mythology the Hydra was a serpent-like water monster with many heads. For every head cut off it grew two more. It had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its tracks were deadly. Credit hire claims are like the Hydra – every time the appeal courts strike off a metaphorical head, another argument (or two) seems to emerge. In a claim for a car hired on credit, absent impecuniosity, the question is what is recoverable? Since Dimond v Lovell [2002] 1 A.C. 384 it has been clear that what is recoverable is the basic hire rate. How is that to be assessed?  The Court of Appeal has just revisited the issue in Karl Stevens v Equity Syndicate Management Limited. How are the additional benefits to be stripped out of the credit hire rate? The burden is on the defendant. But what happens when the court is provided with a wide range of basic hire rates? Kitchin L.J. posed the question: “should the judge take a figure from the top or the middle or the bottom of the range? Or should he take an average? Or should he conclude… that, if one of the figures at the top of the range is close to or exceeds the credit hire rate, then the defendant has simply failed to prove that the BHR is less than the claimed credit hire rate and so not apply a discount at all?” Lord Hoffman said in Dimond that the court should consider what the claimant would have been willing to pay an ordinary hire company for the use of a car. However he did not mean that the court should consider what the individual claimant was prepared to pay: the attitude of the actual claimant was irrelevant. The analysis is an objective one and is to determine what the BHR would have been for a reasonable person in the position of the claimant to hire a car of the kind actually hired on credit. The Court of Appeal concluded that it was reasonable to suppose that the lowest reasonable rate quoted by a mainstream supplier for the hire of the vehicle is a reasonable approximation to the BHR. The key is to identify rates for the hire, in the claimant’s geographical area, of the type of car actually hired. If that yields a single rate then that is likely to be a reasonable approximation of the BHR. If a range of rates, then the BHR may be obtained by identifying the lowest reasonable rate quoted by a mainstream supplier, or if not mainstream supplier, by a local reputable supplier. It was one of the 12 labours of Heracles to destroy the Hydra and he did so with the assistance of Iolaus who finally burned out the roots of the heads with firebrands as Heracles cut them off. Whether the Court of Appeal has achieved this with credit hire claims remains to be seen.  (Photograph courtesy of  www.freephotobank.org)