15 August, 2019
Rees v Co-operative Group Ltd
The Claimant alleged that she had tripped in an uncovered drain situated in the car park of one of its stores. After investigating the claim, breach of duty was admitted but the Claimant was put to proof as to the manner and happening of the accident. It was the Claimant's case that she had been dropped off at the store by her mother and partner. She alleged that she fell in the car park a few minutes later and after phoning her partner, he returned to pick her back up.
The Claimant's partner and mother both provided witness evidence in support of the Claimant's case. The evidence from the three witnesses was found to be riddled with inaccuracies. Notably, the Claimant was not even able to identify the exact location of the defect.
Significantly, the contemporaneous GP records did not support the Claimant's version of events either. The Claimant alleged that she visited her GP three days after the accident. However, the corresponding entry in her GP records simply related to a telephone encounter for a repeat prescription. According to the medical records, the Claimant reported accident-related symptoms to her GP two weeks after the alleged accident - notably this attendance, took place shortly after the Claimant had first instructed solicitors.
The Judge found that the Claimant could not prove her case and dismissed the claim.
The Claimant's evidence was so poor that the Judge was unable to unpick the circumstances of the fall. The discrepancies in the witness evidence was at times astonishing, with the witnesses being unable to agree on the most basic issues such as where the Claimant had been dropped off prior to the accident or where she had been picked up from. Regrettably, despite the inconsistencies the Judge did not take the view that this amounted to dishonesty and found that the Claimant and her witnesses were poor historians.