04 NOV 2015
Public Liability – Admission of Liability
Philip Cavell v Transport for London  EWHC 2283 (QB)
High Court, Queen’s Bench Division: William Davis J
30 July 2015
The court dismissed the defendant’s application to withdraw a pre-action admission of liability.
The claimant was injured when he fell from his bicycle due to a defect in highway. Liability was admitted on behalf of the defendant prior to commencement of proceedings.
However, by way of defence, the defendant denied liability. Permission of the court is required to withdraw an admission post-issue of proceedings pursuant to CPR, r 14.1A. The defendant applied accordingly.
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The defendant argued that it had a strong case on liability and should not be prevented from defending the claim due to the admission, which was an error on the part of the defendant’s claims handlers. Further, if the highway was found to be defective then the defendant said it would be the responsibility of the contractor and indemnity could not be sought if the admission could not be withdrawn.
The judge saw no merit in either argument. He was not persuaded by the defendant’s inspection records, which indicated no defect when the claimant’s photographs showed a clear defect and he had mentioned uneven ground to the paramedics who treated him. Turning to the issue of indemnity, the judge found it would be necessary for the defendant to simply show a defect in order to obtain this. The claimant had volunteered his assistance in this regard so there was no issue. The application was dismissed accordingly.
The case sends a clear message to defendants that withdrawing an admission of liability will not be permitted unless there is very good reason.
Summarised by Adam Dyl, Anthony Gold Solicitors