Philip Cavell v Transport for London [2015] EWHC 2283 (QB)

The court considered whether the Defendant (D) should be permitted to withdraw a pre-action admission of liability pursuant to CPR 14.1A (40 (b) in a personal injury claim brought by a cyclist (C).

In October 2011, C fell off his bicycle. At the time, he told a paramedic that he fell “due to uneven ground”. He later emailed D alleging that the accident was caused by a “pothole”. D then instructed a claims handling firm, which denied liability on D’s behalf on the basis that the area had been regularly inspected and no defects had been recorded. This was not accepted by C, who sent further photographs showing that the defect remained. D then repaired the relevant section of the road – the fault was described as a “pothole”. The file was later reviewed by a second claims handler, who concluded that the lack of contemporaneous evidence made it more difficult to assess whether D’s inspection systems were carried out reasonably. In March 2014, the cyclist’s solicitors contacted the claims handling firm, which issued an admission of liability within 24 hours. D argued that the admission had been made because of an error and, as it had a strong case on liability, it would be unjust to deprive it of its defence.

His Honour Judge Davis held that, whilst it was not for him to conduct a mini-trial, he did not accept the Defendant’s alleged defence had any merit. Further, the court had to consider the factors listed in CPR PD 14 para.7.2. Although it was said that the admission was made in error, no explanation had been offered as to how the error was made. The claims handling firm was hugely experienced in the type of claim involved. The initial denial was followed by a lengthy review involving at least one senior member of staff and, during that time, repairs were carried out to the road. All the external evidence suggested careful consideration of the available material and a reasoned decision based on that material. There was no new evidence to undermine that proposition, or at least no new evidence which might support the pleaded defence. It would not be in the interest of the administration of justice to permit withdrawal of an admission made after mature reflection of a claim by highly competent professional advisors without any evidence to suggest that it had not been properly made.

September 28, 2015 В· Editorial Team В· Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases