piBlawg

the personal injury and clinical negligence blog

A collaboration between Rebmark Legal Solutions and 1 Chancery Lane

Government Whiplash Reforms - On Hold?

The Law Society Gazette is reporting that the Justice Secretary is not intending to proceed with the personal injury reforms set out in last year’s Autumn Statement “at the moment”. We blogged on those proposals at the time here which, as a reminder, were that the small claims track limit should be raised to £5,000 and the removal of the right to general damages for minor soft tissue injuries. Apparently the MOJ has stressed that it is still committed to tackling the high cost of whiplash claims. The Gazette reports that fresh proposals are in the works and could be introduced by the end of the year. It seems the original proposals came very much from the Treasury rather than the MOJ so it will be interesting to see what the MOJ’s solution is. Hopefully they will find a formula which will satisfy everyone by effectively tackling fraud while maintaining access to justice. As ever, watch this space for updates.

Getting your hands on an undisclosed expert report and more

When the other side wants to change expert are you entitled to their original expert’s reports and other documentation containing the substance of the expert’s opinion? This was the question considered in the case Allen Tod Architecture v Capita Property and Infrastructure Ltd ([2016] EWHC 2171). Unsurprisingly the claimant in that case resisted disclosure on the grounds that the documents and reports sought were privileged. The claimant had grown exasperated by his expert’s delays and shortcomings and so turned to an alternative expert. At paragraph 32 of his judgment the judge set out the authorities and principles to be applied when considering whether to grant permission to a party to change expert:  (1) The court has a wide and general power to exercise its discretion whether to impose terms when granting permission to a party to adduce expert opinion evidence (2) In exercising that power or discretion, the court may give permission for a party to rely on a second replacement expert, but such power or discretion is usually exercised on condition that the report of the first expert is disclosed (and privilege waived - see Vasiliou v Hajigeorgiou [2005] 1 WLR 2195) (3)  Once the parties have engaged in a relevant pre-action protocol process, and an expert has prepared a report in the context of such process, that expert then owes a duty to the Court irrespective of his instruction by one of the parties, and accordingly there was no justification for not disclosing that report as a condition for changing expert (see  Edwards-Tubb v JD Wetherspoon plc [2011] 1 W.L.R. 1373 – a PI case)  (4) The court's power to exercise its discretion whether to impose terms when giving permission to a party to adduce expert opinion evidence arises irrespective of the occurrence of any ‘expert shopping’. It is a power to be exercised reasonably on a case-by-case basis, in each case having regard to all the circumstances of that particular case.   (5) The court will require strong evidence of ‘expert shopping’ before imposing a term that a party discloses other forms of document than the report of expert A (such as attendance notes and memoranda made by a party's solicitor of his or her discussions with expert A) as a condition of giving permission to rely on expert B (see (BMG (Mansfield) Ltd v Galliford Try Construction Ltd  [2013] EWHC 3183)  In the case of Allen Tod itself the judge found that there was no real reason for making a distinction between the expert’s final report, draft or provisional reports or other documents setting out his opinion: neither would have been discloseable if the expert had remained the claimant’s expert. He ordered disclosure of the original expert’s notes and preliminary report as a condition of permitting the claimant to rely on the new expert and he also ordered disclosure of any document in which the original expert had provided his opinion. To the extent any other material was contained in any such document, it was to be redacted before disclosure.

PI claim by tenant: SC overules CA and Dowding & Reynolds

For years tenants have relied upon Brown v Liverpool Corporation [1969] 3 All ER 1345 when suing landlords for damages for personal injury caused by an accident on external steps or a front path leading to the front door of a house. In that case the Court of Appeal held that the steps were part of the exterior of the dwelling-house. In the case of Edwards v Kumarasamy [2016] UKSC 40, the Supreme Court held that decision was wrong. The case of Edwards involved a subtenant being injured when he tripped on an uneven paving stone on the paved area between the main entrance to the block of flats and a carpark. The subtenant brought proceedings against his landlord (the headlessee) claiming his injury was caused by his landlord’s failure to keep the paved area in repair in breach of the covenants implied into the subtenancy by section 11(1)(a) and 11(1A)(a) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Section 11(1)(a) of the 1985 Act implied a repairing obligation into the subtenancy “to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house…”. Section 11(1A)(a) required section 11(1)(a) to be read as if it required a landlord “to keep in repair the structure and exterior of any part of the building in which [he] has an estate or interest.” Presumably influenced by the decision in Brown, the Court of Appeal had held that the path leading from the car park to the main entrance was “a part of the exterior of the front hall”. Lord Neuberger PSC said that ordinary language simply did not permit the path to be described in this way. He said “it is hard to see how a feature which is not in any normal sense part of a building and lies wholly outside that building, and in particular outside the floors, ceilings, walls and doors which encase the front hall of the building, can fairly be described as part of the exterior of the front hall.” Lord Neuberger was not persuaded that the words should be given a wide effect in the light of section 11(1A)(a). Having decided that the path was not a part of the ‘structure or exterior’ of the dwelling house the Supreme Court needed go no further. It did however go on to consider whether the landlord/headlessee had an “estate or interest” in the front hall. He had been granted a right of way over the front hall by the headlease and as a matter of property law, that constituted an interest in land (although not an estate). It was argued that the landlord/headlessee had, for the purposes of s.11(1A)(a), effectively disposed of his right of way to the tenant under the tenancy. This argument was rejected preserving the liability of the landlord/headlessee for disrepair in the common parts. Lord Neuberger said that s.11(3A) would have offered him some protection in that he would not have been liable for disrepair without prior notice. The final issue considered by the Supreme Court (again, not technically necessary due to its initial finding) was the question of notice. The court reiterated the law as it stands. The general principle is that a repair covenant effectively operates as a warranty that the premises will be in repair. As soon as premises are out of repair, the covenantor is in breach irrespective of whether he has had notice or whether he has had time to remedy the disrepair. There are exceptions to this general rule, one of which is that a landlord is not liable under a covenant with his tenant to repair premise which are in the possession of the tenant and not the landlord, unless and until the landlord has notice of the disrepair. The court went on to consider what happens when the landlord has covenanted with one tenant to repair the structure but has let part of it to another tenant. In other words, what happens when property is in possession of neither the landlord or tenant? The answer is that the exception to the general principle does not normally apply: the landlord will be liable to the one tenant even though he is not in possession of the structure in concern and has had no notice from the other tenant. The final question on notice was whether s.11 always required it: in other words, whenever a tenant relies on the covenant implied by s. 11, is the landlord only liable when notice is given? The text Dowding & Reynolds, Dilapidations: The Modern Law and Practice, 5th ed (2013) supported the landlord’s submission that notice was required when a tenant relied upon the s.11 covenant. The Supreme Court thought otherwise. The s.11 covenant was to be interpreted and applied in precisely the same way as a landlord’s contractual repairing covenant.

Assessing the cost of ATE Premiums

If anyone needs a reminded why the costs landscape for personal injury litigators has changed so dramatically they may not need look much further than the judgment of the Designated Civil Judge of the County Court at London, HHJ Walden-Smith, sitting with DJ Letham as assessor in the costs case of Banks v London Borough of Hillingdon, which has been commented upon in the legal press. The case concerned the correct assessment of an After-The-Event insurance policy, an issue which ranked high on the list of insurers' (and it seems the Government's) bugbears with the unreformed CFA system.   The underlying case was a straightforward, low-value, public liability tripper case. The successful claimant was awarded just under £7,000 in damages and costs were assessed/agreed save for a somewhat eye-watering £24,694 ATE premium. Master Gordon-Saker the costs judge cut this down to £9,375 on the basis that it was patently unreasonable for a premium to so extensively exceed the likely assured sum. This latter figure the Master considered would have been a maximum of £15,000, that is, the maximum amount such an insurer would have to pay out in costs should the claimant lose the case. He awarded half this sum, plus another 25 percent. Before the learned senior circuit judge it was argued that the costs master misdirected himself and should have considered the “basket of risk” for insurers, rather than applying some sort of common-sense approach on a case-by-case basis. The court overturned Master Gordon-Saker’s decision on the ground that he indeed erred and failed to consider the august guidance of the Court of Appeal in Rogers v Merthyr Tydfil CBC [2006] EWCA Civ 1134. The court held that it was for the paying party to adduce evidence that the premium was excessive and as this had not been available in the instant case, the costs master had no basis to conclude that the sum claimed was unreasonable (per, Kris Motor Spares Ltd v Fox Williams LLP [2010] EWHC 1008). This decision must be seen as victory for claimant litigators, given that it should serve as a persuasive reminder to trial judges to follow Rogers in the ever-diminishing rump of cases where such high ATE premiums are seen. The lesson for defendants is obvious: in cases where they are put on notice that, if successful, a claimant party will seek payment of what appears to be a very high ATE premium, it would be prudent to obtain evidence that lower premiums were available to support the conclusion that what is allowed should be assessed down. In the event that such information is not available until at or after trial, such a defendant would have little option other than to request that the matter be subject to detailed assessment, potentially at the expense of the claimant party.

QOCS : applies to appeals?

Qualified One-way Costs Shifting: does it apply to appeals?   Yes, according to Edis J in Parker v Butler [2016] EWHC 1251 (QB), who held:   3.         If (as is likely to be the case here) the claimant's access to justice is dependent on the benefit of QOCS, that access will be significantly reduced if he is exposed to a risk as to the costs of any unsuccessful appeal which he may bring or any successful appeal a defendant may bring against him. ...   4.         The power to make enforceable orders for costs is designed to compensate successful parties for their expense in bringing or resisting claims, but it also has an effect of deterring people from bringing or resisting claims unsuccessfully. It is an incentive to resolve disputes and serves a public as well as a private interest. ...   9.         CPR 44.13 provides "(1) This Section applies to proceedings which include a claim for damages – (a) for personal injuries"   10.       The issue is, therefore, whether the appeal is part of the proceedings which include a claim for damages for personal injuries or whether it is separate from them and thus not subject to the regime. If it is separate from the proceedings which culminated in the trial, is it nonetheless a set of proceedings which includes a claim for damages?   17.       An appeal by a claimant against the dismissal of his claim for personal injuries is a means of pursuing that claim against the defendant or defendants who succeeded in defeating that claim at trial. There is no difference between the parties or the relief sought as there is between the original claim and the Part 20 claim. Most importantly, to my mind there is no difference between the nature of the claimant at trial and the appellant on appeal. He is the same person, and the QOCS regime exists for his benefit as the best way to protect his access to justice to pursue a personal injury claim. To construe the word "proceedings" as excluding an appeal which was necessary if he were to succeed in establishing the claim which had earlier attracted costs protection would do nothing to serve the purpose of the QOCS regime. ...

Damages for abuse

The Claimant in KCR v The Scout Association [2016] EWHC 597 (QB) suffered sustained abuse by a Cub Scout Group Leader when a young boy in the 1980s. In 2003 the abuser was convicted of a large number of sexual offences against boys including the Claimant. As might be expected, given recent trends in this area of law, the Defendant admitted that it was vicariously liable for the abuser’s actions. The court was therefore concerned solely with the assessment of damages. The case had one feature that is depressingly common and one that is rather unusual. It is also, in more general terms, a helpful illustration of how courts may approach the difficult issues that cases of this kind throw up. It is often the case that victims of abuse are peculiarly vulnerable individuals. Sometimes this gives the abuser the opportunity to perpetrate abuse (for example, if a child is in care) or prevents the abuse being detected (because there is no-one the child can trust enough to confide in). The correlation (or at least frequent concurrence) of pre-existing vulnerability and abuse makes determining issues of causation in such cases difficult, because children who have experienced traumatic childhoods may already be destined to lead difficult adult lives in any event. In this case, the Claimant’s parents separated when he was four or five years old after his father had been violent towards his mother. He began using drugs in his teens and subsequently obtained his income principally from drug-dealing, with the exception of a few short-lived periods when he was in employment. He had a number of convictions for offences relating to drugs, firearms, dishonesty and violence.   The Claimant contended that he was entitled to a Blamire award for loss of earnings, past and future, on the basis that his inability to find sustained employment was a result of the abuse he had suffered. The Defendant accepted that the Claimant was entitled to general damages, but disputed the loss of earnings claim, contending that it was his “lifestyle choices” rather than the abuse that had prevented him being in sustained employment. The Defendant further contended that, even if factual causation was established, much of the Claimant’s loss should be deemed irrecoverable as a matter of public policy because it arose from the consequences of the Claimant’s own criminal conduct. After a careful analysis of the facts, the court preferred the Defendant’s case on causation. As a result, it did not have to go on to consider the application of the ex turpi maxim. It assessed general damages at £48,000 and dismissed the claim for aggravated damages with reference to Richard v Howie [2004] EWCA Civ 1127. The unusual feature of the case was that at the time he was subject to the abuse, and for some time afterwards, the Claimant and another boy effectively blackmailed the abuser when they realised they could demand from him rewards of money and material possessions in return for keeping quiet about the abuse. The Defendant contended that it should be given credit for the sums thereby extorted from the abuser by the Claimant. It was prayed in aid in support of this submission that the Claimant had himself described the payments in his witness statement to the police as “compensation”. Such a submission is so obviously unattractive that it is perhaps surprising that it was ever advanced and it is not at all surprising that it was rejected by the judge, who held (a) that the payments were gifts and hence could not properly be considered as compensation and (b) that as a matter of public policy the Claimant’s damages should not be reduced as the Defendant suggested. The judge reached the right conclusion, but for the wrong reasons. The payments were not gifts; they were, on the facts, part of a bargain between the Claimant and the abuser whereby the abuser sought to buy the Claimant’s silence so that he could continue to perpetrate abuse (of the Claimant and of others). The real reason the Defendant was not entitled to credit for the payments was that they did not relate to the subject matter of the claim, which was damages for the effect of the abuse on the Claimant in terms of pain, suffering, anguish etc. The abuser made the payments so that he could continue his abuse, not to compensate the Claimant for the effects of that abuse. Because the Defendant’s contention could have been dismissed for that reason, the resort to public policy was unnecessary and possibly unhelpful for future cases where the same or similar issues arise. There may be cases where it would be appropriate for a defendant to be given credit for payments made by an abuser. Suppose an abuser later repented of their abuse and wrote to their former victim expressing contrition for the harm they had caused and enclosing a cheque which the victim banked. Such cases are likely to be exceptional, but as and when they do occur then on what principle of public policy should a defendant who was vicariously liable for the abuser’s actions not be entitled to have that payment taken into account? There will be cases at the margins which will be difficult to decide, but the principle that should be applied remains whether the payments were genuinely compensatory or whether, as here, they were really the price that the abuser was willing to pay to avoid detection. A victim extorting money from an abuser may be unusual but it is not unprecedented. A case that sticks in the mind from criminal law lectures is R v Camplin (“the chapati pan case”) where the defendant murdered his abuser, who he had been blackmailing in return for not revealing the abuse of another boy called “Jumbo”: see the report from the Court of Appeal [1978] QB 254 at 257C. Many of the abuse cases currently working their way through the courts involve wealthy abusers who may have made payments to their victims. How to treat those payments is therefore an issue which the courts are likely to have to address again before too long.