The Claimant owned a new build property which had been constructed by the First Defendant. She fell over a step in the garden and suffered serious injuries. Her pleaded case was that the First Defendant had breached the contract of sale by failing to complete the work to a satisfactory standard and in compliance with building regulations.
The Claimant made three applications one week before trial. Only one was opposed. By this application, the Claimant sought permission to amend her particulars of claim to allege that there had been a breach of common law duty.
The application was refused. There was no real reason advanced in support of the amendment which appeared to simply represent a late change of mind. The new allegation was substantially different and could not be met by the Defendants on the basis of the current evidence, certainly not without additional work. Allowing the amendment would require the trial date to be vacated if the Defendants were not to be faced with a new allegation at a very late stage.
A cathedral appealed against a finding that it was liable for the injury suffered by the respondent. The respondent alleged that he had tripped over a piece of concrete which stuck out from the bottom of a bollard within the cathedral precincts.
HELD: (1) A trial judge must strike a balance between the nature and extent of a risk and the cost of eliminating it when assessing whether a visitor would be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes of the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957. Not all foreseeable risks are sufficiently serious to require an occupier to take steps to eliminate them. The assessment of this seriousness amounts to an exercise of judgement by a trial judge.
(2) The trial judge in this case did not recognise in his judgment that not all foreseeable risks require action to be taken by the occupier. He could not have reached the decision he did if he properly took a practical and realistic approach to the dangers which the cathedral was required to rectify. The piece of concrete was extremely small and could not be said to pose a real danger to pedestrians.
The court determined liability and contributory negligence as a preliminary issue in a claim for personal injury brought by the Claimant, a pedestrian, who was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while attempting to cross a road. The Claimant, who had been drinking, sustained serious brain injuries and consequent loss of capacity.
Held: (1) On the balance of probabilities, the accident had occurred at about 20-25 mph just before a raised pedestrian crossing; (2) before crossing, the Claimant had briefly stopped at the kerb, which allowed time for the Defendant to brake; it was foreseeable that the Claimant might step into the street, and yet the Defendant had failed to observe him or slow down such as to avoid a collision; he therefore failed to exercise the care of a reasonably prudent motorist; (3) the Claimant had not only failed to look right before crossing but he had also chosen not to cross at the crossing itself; had he done so, the collision would have been avoided. His failure to take care was linked to his alcohol consumption. The court gave judgment for the Claimant, but discounted damages by one third due to contributory negligence.
The question for the court was whether a first instance judge was correct in deciding that the appellant local authority owed a duty under section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 to ensure that visitors were safe in using a small ornamental bridge in a park, notwithstanding that there was nothing wrong with the state of the premises and no history of previous accidents. The judge distinguished between section 2 of the Act and section 1(1)(a) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 which regulated whether a duty was owed by reason of any danger due to the “state of the premises” and held the local authority should have identified and assessed the risk of a fall from the bridge and warned users accordingly.
Held: (1) The provisions in the two Acts were not materially different: both required a clear identification of the dangers of the premises, on which the judge had not adequately focused. While an unfenced bridge presented dangers objectively constituting a danger from which a duty of care arose, that clearly did not mean that railings or warnings were required: Tomlinson v Congleton BC  UKHL 47 followed; (2) a formal risk assessment would not have produced anything other than a statement of the obvious, and would not have lessened the possibility of the accident occurring; (3) there was no requirement for the local authority to fit railings.
The Claimant was a litigant in person. A costs management hearing was held. The Claimant wished to obtain legal assistance falling short of a firm of solicitors having conduct of the litigation. These solicitors would then instruct a barrister who was not Direct Access qualified. The Court considered: (1) to what extent CPR r3.13 to r3.18 (the costs management regime) applied to a litigant in person’s costs; and (2) whether to grant a declaration that the Claimant could recover the costs of the assistance he wished to receive under r46.5.
(1) The Court could order a litigant in person to produce a costs budget. It could also make a costs management order in relation to a litigant in person’s costs.
(2) r46.5(3)(b) allowed payments “relating to the conduct of proceedings” to be recovered. There was no reason to construe this narrowly so as to prevent a litigant in person recovering the costs of assistance. Use of the Direct Access scheme was likely to assist with progressing the claim in an orderly manner and would therefore assist the Court.
Jacqueline Ann Smith v (1) Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (2) Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (3) Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 2208 (QB)
The Claimant cohabited with her partner for over two years before he died as a result of the negligence of the First and Second Defendants. Under s.1A(2)(a) of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (as amended), two year plus cohabitees were not entitled to bereavement damages. The Claimant sought a declaration regarding the interpretation of s.1A(2)(a), or a declaration that the section was incompatible with the Human Right Act 1998.
HELD: (1) To demonstrate that Article 8 was directly engaged the Claimant must show a direct and immediate link between the restriction and her private and family life: Swift v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 2000 (QB). Article 8 could be engaged even where the family member in question was deceased. However, the denial of a bereavement award to two year plus cohabitees did not imply that their grief was considered less valuable by the state than the grief of a spouse. The Claimant failed to show that Article 8 was directly engaged.
(2) Once it had been decided that a measure did not engage Article 8, that measure would often fall outside its ambit for the same reasons. The lack of a right to compensation for grief was not linked at all to her private life and was only tenuously linked to her family life. That conclusion was in line with the R (on the application of Tigere) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills  UKSC 57 four-stage test.
(3) Had it been necessary to decide, the Claimant had “other status” for the purposes of Article 14 because she was in a relationship closely analogous to marriage with the deceased. The similarities between the situations was sufficient to require any discrimination infringing rights within the ambit of Article 8 to be justified.
(4) As the Law Commission has identified, the current law requires reform. If Articles 8 and 14 had been engaged, the Secretary of State had not established justification for the differences in treatment.
(5) It would not have been possible to read s.1A(2)(a) so as to include two year plus cohabitees. The right remedy, had the claim succeeded, would have been a declaration of incompatibility.
The Claimant, who was injured in a road traffic accident and pursued a personal injury claim, accepted a Part 36 offer of Â£3,500 from the Defendant. He had been represented by three firms of solicitors. A Conditional Fee Agreement into which the Claimant had entered with the second set of solicitors (TLW Solicitors) in January 2013 was assigned to the third set of solicitors (Russell Worth Ltd) in July 2014 after TLW had written to the Claimant explaining the reasons for the transfer. At detailed assessment, the Defendant took issue with the validity of that assignment and therefore the Claimant’s right to recover any costs under it. The questions for Master Leonard were whether the Claimant’s retainer with TLW had been terminated at the time of the assignment arrangement; whether it was lawfully possible for the CFA to be assigned in the manner attempted; and whether the assignment was effective.
HELD: In relation to whether the retainer had been terminated, the case was distinguished from Budana v Leads Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (District Judge Besford, County Court at Kingston-Upon-Hull, 4 February 2016) and Webb v London Borough of Bromley (SCCO, 18 February 2016). On analysis, there was no evidence the TLW CFA had been or was terminated by TLW at the time of the assignment. In relation to the assignment’s legality, there was no identifiable obstacle in the principles governing assignment of the benefit and burden of contracts to the validity of a bona fide, arms-length CFA assignment in the circumstances of the case: Jones v Spire Healthcare Ltd (HHJ Graham Wood QC, Liverpool County Court, 11 May 2016) considered. The assignment was found to be effective and a novation did not take place. It followed that the indemnity principle did not operate to prevent the recovery of the costs incurred by the Claimant and payable both to TLW and Russell Worth Ltd under the terms of the TLW CFA.
The Respondent was walking on a roadside verge while holidaying in Greece in 2011 when she was struck by a vehicle registered in Greece whose driver neither had a valid driving licence nor any insurance. She was left with very serious injuries. The Respondent was entitled to pursue the UK Motor Insurer’s Bureau, rather than the responsible Greek body, via the Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Information Centre and Compensation Body) Regulations 2003. Liability was admitted but the issue in dispute was whether the scope of the MIB’s liability to the Respondent was to be measured according to English or Greek law (thereby resulting in a lower level of compensation). At first instance, the Respondent had argued that the 2003 Regulations provide for English law to govern the measure of recovery – as accepted by the Court of Appeal in Jacobs v Motor Insurer’s Bureau  EWCA Civ 1208 and followed in Bloy v Motor Insurer’s Bureau  EWCA Civ 1543. The MIB successfully applied for a leap-frog appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
HELD: The Supreme Court held that the starting point in construing the 2003 Regulations was that they should be interpreted in a way which was not in any way inconsistent with the Directives which they were designed to implement. The scheme of the Directives was clear: rather than leave the question of the provision of compensation to individual Member States, the Directives proceeded on the basis that a victim’s entitlement to compensation would be measured on a consistent basis by reference to the law of the state of the accident. This approach was reflected by the language of the Regulations, specifically regulation 13(2)(b). Jacobs and Bloy were therefore overruled and accordingly the scope of the MIB’s liability was to be determined in accordance with Greek law.
An asbestosis sufferer was entitled to damages from a former employer who was responsible for 2.3% of his total exposure to asbestos dust; although that was a very small contribution, it was a material contribution to his condition.
The appellant former employer had conceded that the 2.3% exposure and contribution to asbestosis was material, but argued that as the contribution had made no difference to the respondent’s symptoms and condition, the judge should have held that it did not make him worse off and therefore made no material contribution to the damage suffered.
The Court of Appeal held that the focus was upon whether the medical condition would have made the person worse off. The question of whether he had suffered material damage depended on the particular facts of the case. The Court held that there was a fundamental contradiction in the appellant employer’s case, as it both argued that the attributable asbestos dust made no material contribution to his asbestosis by arguing that it had not and would not make a difference to his symptoms, but also accepted that it was a material contribution to the entire dose of asbestos dust. The severity of the symptoms had been increased to a small, albeit not measurable extent, and the concession that the increase was material was critical. In those circumstances, the judge was right to hold that the respondent was slightly worse off as a result of the 2.3% exposure for which the appellant was responsible.
Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.
Thanks to a new law in the province of Alberta, victims of domestic violence have some recourse to escape their abusers more easily. Under the Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, renters can break a lease before full term without suffering a financial penalty. The only catch is this: They must produce a certificate verifying that they are at risk of abuse. The certificate is available by giving the Ministry of Human Services an emergency protection order or a letter from a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker that states that the person is in danger
The idea behind the Act is that finances (or lack of finances) should never be a factor in oneâ€™s ability to flee an abusive situation. The new law is also aimed at making it easier for victims to get connected with a variety of services for survivors of domestic violence.
Nearly 5,000 women are admitted to Albertaâ€™s 32 emergency shelters and 12 second-stage shelters every year. Half of the women admitted to shelters in the province between 2014 and 2015 were assessed to be in extreme danger, which is an increase from the year before. More than twice the number of women who found themselves in shelters during that time period had to be turned away because of lack of space.
The Alberta NDP government recently announced that they will invest $15 million in combatting domestic violence. A big part of that will go toward second-stage shelters, which are apartment-style housing that offers longer-term support for domestic violence survivors. Second-stage shelters allow victims to stay for up to two years, as compared to the shorter-term shelter offered by emergency shelters.
The new private memberâ€™s bill was put forth by Maria Fitzpatrick and was passed unanimously. The bill will effectively amend current tenancy rules so that a woman who can show proof that they are in danger (such as a restraining order) will be able to break their lease without any financial penalties. It is a step toward removing the most common barriers faced by women who are trying to escape domestic violence. At present, financial difficulties and having no place to go are two of the most common barriers women in domestic violence situations face when attempting to leave. By allowing them to escape their lease without threat of financial penalty, at least one of those worries is alleviated. It is the hope that the rest of the provinceâ€™s investment in helping victims of domestic violence will also address the issue of ensuring that victims have a place they can go.
Domestic violence is a widespread problem in Canada and around the world. Too often, women stay in situations that are dangerous to themselves and their children because they feel trapped and without alternatives. Thanks to laws such as the private memberâ€™s bill recently passed in Alberta, we are taking a step in the right direction. Lawmakers are increasingly turning their attention to finding ways to make it easier for victims of domestic violence not only too physically and financially escape, but to feel safe once they leave and start to rebuild their lives. Those are the ingredients necessary to give victims the safety net they need to take the plunge and leave a dangerous domestic violence situation.