22 January, 2019
Mark Birkett v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
Bradford CC -
A man who walked into a street sign has lost his claim for personal injury against the local authority.
The Claimant alleged that he had been walking along a pavement when he hit his head and arm on a brown tourist road sign, which was overhanging the footway. The local authority conceded breach of duty on the basis that the bottom edge of the sign was 5ft. 6 inches from the floor. However, the Claimant was put to strict proof with regards to the cause and manner in which he sustained his injury.
In his witness evidence, the Claimant described that on the day of the accident he was walking along the pavement and turned around to wave to a friend who was driving past in his car. As he carried on walking down the street, he hit his head on a road sign that was hanging down in to his path.
In the witness box, the Claimant gave a wholly different version of events. He explained to the Court that he that he had turned to wave at his friend whilst on the other side of the road, before crossing the road and walking along the footway into the metal sign. He claimed that he did not see the sign because of the peak of his baseball cap (the first time he had been mentioned wearing a baseball cap). In addition, he claimed that he had hit the centre of his forehead on the sign but given the Claimant's height and the fact his forehead is less than 7 inches from the top of his head this would not have been possible.
When giving the judgment, the Judge pointed to the numerous inconsistencies in Claimant's evidence; including the date of the accident, how the accident occurred, what he did following the accident, when he went to A&E and the injuries sustained as a result of the alleged accident. The Judge was not satisfied that the accident had occurred as alleged and dismissed the claim.
The Claimant' bizarre change in evidence made the Claimant's case on causation even less likely than it had been previously. It also conflicted with the evidence the Claimant gave to the medical expert, that he hit the sign with his forehead. This would have proved very difficult to do if his baseball cap story was to be believed.
Although, the defence had succeeded in highlighting and undermining the Claimant's case and the Judge was clearly not satisfied that the accident had occurred, he refused to make a finding of fundamental dishonesty.
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