The Claimant was being driven by his manager in a van along a works road to Tilbury Port.

On the road there were two speed bumps which were higher than all others on the road.

After being driven over one at about 10mph, the Claimant was thrown in his seat and wrenched his back.

There was evidence that previous oral complaints had been made that the bumps were excessively high and risky.

The Judge found breaches of the following Docks Regulations:

Reg 7: unsafe access to docks premises.
Reg 12(2) : to prevent danger on premises through vehicle use so far as was reasonably practicable. 
Reg 12 (3) : this requires employees to drive in a safe manner – to drive at 10 mph in the circumstances amounted to a breach.

15th July 2010, Romford CC

Expert witnesses – immunity from suit

In Paul Wynne Jones -v- Sue Kaney (QBD 2010) the claimant instigated proceedings against the psychologist instructed to prepare an expert report in relation to the claimant’s claim for damages sustained in a road traffic accident. The psychologist’s initial report suggested a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.

An expert appointed for the defence concluded that the claimant was exaggerating his physical symptoms. A joint statement was ordered that was signed by both experts but was very damaging to the claimant’s case. It subsequently transpired that the psychologist had signed the joint statement without any comment or amendment to the draft prepared by the defendant’s psychologist.

As a result of the joint statement the matter was settled for a much smaller sum than would otherwise have been the case. The claimant issued proceedings for negligence against the applicant’s psychologist. The psychologist’s defence was a plea of witness immunity in accordance with the decision in Stanton -v- Callaghan (2000 QB).

The psychologist then applied for summary judgment striking out the claim for negligence by the respondent on this basis. Defending the strike out, it was argued that the decision in Stanton was no longer binding.

It was held the decision in Stanton remained an accurate statement of the law and was binding. The fact that human rights considerations might question some of the policy assumptions behind a previous decision of a superior court was no basis for concluding that the decision was no longer authoritative. The decision in Stanton could not be distinguished in the present case and accordingly the claim was indeed struck out.

However (obiter), it was stated a policy of blanket immunity for all witnesses that indiscriminately protected expert witnesses might well prove to be too broad to be sustainable and therefore disproportionate.

There was a substantial likelihood that on re-examination by a superior court, it would emerge that the public policy justification for the rule could not support it. The decision in Stanton would also be binding in the Court of Appeal and it was therefore appropriate to grant a certificate under the Administration of Justices Act 1969, Section 12, enabling the Supreme Court to decide whether to grant leave to appeal.