Road traffic accidents and fraud
The defendant reversed a crane into the claimant’s vehicle. He said he was suspicious from the start that no collision had taken place and took measurements to show the accident could not have occurred – but did not bring documents to trial.
On the other hand the claimant chased the defendant from his vehicle as soon as the accident happened. The judge placed great weight on that as hardly the actions of someone with something to hide and found for the claimant.
As a point of law, when fraud was pleaded it was argued by the claimant it was for the defendant to prove its case on fraud beyond reasonable doubt.
Cochrane -v- Dowse, Newcastle CC, 17 January 2005
ii. A Judge was entitled to believe the evidence of an honest, blameless lay claimant over the directly conflicting evidence of a jointly instructed expert in accident reconstruction and bio mechanics with whose evidence the Judge had said he could find no fault.
This was a low impact accident (10-15 mph) where the defendant had raised an allegation of fraud when the expert had said the accident and injury could not have happened as described.
The claimant did not instruct a second expert.
Held, on appeal the court was entitled to make findings on the evidence as given.
Armstrong and another -v- First York Ltd, CA, 17 January 2005.
Highways Act breach: bike in pothole
The claimant was cycling along the road when she pulled out towards the middle to pass a parked car. She looked over her shoulder to check for traffic behind her and after passing the car steered back towards the kerb. As she did so the front wheel of her bicycle went down a pot hole in the road.
The accident occurred on 22 April 2002. The defendants denied liability and pleaded reliance upon Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. In support of this they produced highway inspection reports for the area dated 2 March and 8 October 2001 and 22 March 2002. These reports identified various faults and the subsequent repair work.
The claimant had taken a photograph of the defect one week after the accident, which showed a substantial pot hole. The court heard evidence from the defendant’s highways inspector. The Judge concluded from the photos that the size of the defect made it highly unlikely that it had developed since the inspection one month prior to the accident. The inspector must have missed it. Accordingly, he found that the S.58 defence failed.
Although we did not need to rely upon it we had also argued that the defendants had failed to adhere to the “Code of Practice for Maintenance Management July 2001” (December 2004 Law Bulletin). But the Judge decided that the regularity of inspection set out in the guidelines for this class of road (3-monthly) would be imposing too great a financial burden on the defendants.
Manchester County Court
Before: District Judge Gosnall
Diane Mannion -v- Manchester City Council 8 December 2004
Waste disposal: tipping truck safer than shovel and skip
The claimant collected council and household waste. This included wet cement. He shovelled it into the back of his wagon which had a smooth aluminium floor. He was concerned about disposal options as the incinerator where the waste could have been tipped was far away enough that the concrete might set in his van.
At the local depot he had no tipping license so he shovelled the cement into skips. He fell from his wagon which was even more slippery with the wet concrete. The Judge made a finding of unsafe system of work on the grounds safer alternatives to vigorous shovelling at height were:
- a standing instruction to treat cement as a priority so it did not set and to tip it at the incinerator or
- to ensure tipping could have been licensed at the skip depot.
Johnson -v- North Tyneside Council
The claimant blamed the referee at a rugby game for his injury when a scrum collapsed. He said the referee had failed to control the scrum in line with law 20 by failing to call “engage” before the scrum did so and failing to spot a player was out of position in breach of the game’s laws.
The claimant’s witnesses from his team supported him. The referee had support from an opposing player and the Judge found for him and the defence.
On appeal the court said the Judge had assessed the evidence fairly; in particular a written report directly after the accident which did not mention the failure to control the scrum was strong evidence and he was entitled to prefer the evidence of the referee and his witness.
Allport -v- Wilbrahim, QBD, 15 December 2004.