Case - Jason Bates v. Ashley Malyon

[2008] EWHC 2386 QB, Queens Bench Division (Birmingham) - David Rivers

In this case the Claimant was hit from behind by the Defendant in an RTA. At trial the Defendant insisted the accident must have happened when the Claimant drove into a gap between the front of his car and the next car along of three quarters of a car length without leaving enough space for him such that he then drove into the rear of the Claimant’s car. In many aspects the Defendants case was inherently weak not least because on the distances described and emphasised by him were such that the rear of the car would not have been in line with the front of the Defendant’s vehicle and it was clear from the engineers report that the damages which occurred was along the rear of the Claimant’s vehicle. There were numerous other weaknesses in the Defendant’s account including his denial in evidence that he saw any damage at all to the Claimant’s vehicle; the absence of credible explanation of the extent of the damage given the slow speed one would expect in stop start traffic and the general presumption that if you run into the back of another person’s car you will have the evidential burden of explaining why this is not your fault. At trial the case came on before a Recorder whose background was not in this field. Very little was said on the Defendant’s behalf once he had been cross examined no doubt in part because of the problems created by his evidence but the main submission was that with two drivers giving different accounts the burden of proof could not be satisfied. The Recorder accepted that and the claim failed. The Claimant appealed relying on the well known principles set down by the court of Appeal that in the context of road traffic accidents particularly there will always be a choice between two driver’s accounts and unless it was impossible to see any basis to chose the burden of proof was a blunt instrument that should not be relied upon. Permission was granted as having a good prospect on paper by Lewison J. however the appeal was heard by Mr Justice Walker. As is clear from his Judgment attached he clearly did not think this appeal should have brought because of the value of this fast track claim (about £12,000). Towards the end of the Recorders judgment which was expressly on the basis that the burden was not satisfied he said that he was ‘influenced by the apparent concentration of damage to the vehicles’ although several paragraphs earlier he had also said that the area of damage did not assist him. Walker J. relied on this to say that in fact the judge had therefore made a finding of fact that the damage prevented him finding for the Claimant; that that single line was a sufficiently reasoned judgment on the issues in dispute and that the other factors above did not make that finding perverse. This case is a clear indication which was expressly set out at the end of the judgment that in fast track road traffic cases the standard of what is to be expected by way of judgment and reasons is lower than in multi track litigation.

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