Interim Payments – Accommodation Costs – Road Traffic Accident – Contributory Negligence
High Court, Queen’s Bench Division
Mr Justice Popplewell
28 July 2014
The defendant claimed that the court was wrong to award the claimant an interim payment of £500,000 and challenged the approach taken in dealing with the issues of contributory negligence and accommodation costs.
On 15 April 2012, the claimant, a 70 year old motorcyclist was seriously injured when the defendant who was driving in the opposite direction turned right across his path. As a result the claimant sustained a complete spinal cord injury leading to paraplegia and he would be wheelchair dependent for the rest of his life. The claimant’s rented accommodation whilst satisfactory had not been fully accessible and he sought to purchase a suitable property. On 29 April 2014, Master Yoxall awarded the claimant an interim payment of £500,000 on the basis that this amount was a reasonable proportion of the likely final award. The defendant appealed this order challenging the Master’s approach to the issue of contributory negligence and accommodation costs and lost.
The defendant had filed a defence not admitting liability and advancing a plea of contributory negligence. The evidence before the Master was contained in the police investigation report, which concluded that the accident was the fault of the defendant. Based on this evidence, the Master rejected that contributory negligence was a factor to be taken into account and he stated that the burden of proof was on the defendant.
The defendant submitted that the Master was wrong to treat the burden of establishing contributory negligence as resting on the defendant. The defendant also submitted that on the evidence available there was a real prospect of a reduction for contributory negligence. The defendant also submitted that the Master ought not to have taken into account any sum in respect of accommodations costs and that in doing so he made several errors of law in misapplying the principles in Eeles v Cobham Hires Services Ltd  1 WLR 409.
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