Forbes at trial - Intoxicating Evidence

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02 March, 2020

The claimant alleged that he fell due to a depression on the footpath. He sustained an injury to his right arm.

The claimant brought his claim pursuant to s.41 Highways Act 1980. The defendant conceded a breach of duty but put the claimant to proof that the accident had occurred as pleaded.

There were a number of inconsistencies in the claimant's case and the defendant was concerned that the claimant may have been intoxicated at the time of the accident.

At the trial, the Court heard evidence from the claimant and his son. The Judge commented that they were good witnesses but aspects of their evidence was not as clear as he would have liked.

In his judgment, the Judge noted that the description of the accident was unclear. The accident circumstances were not recorded in the A&E records and it was noted that the Claimant had been intoxicated at the time of the incident. There was also a discrepancy in the CNF, which referred to the claimant tripping as opposed to slipping. The Judge confirmed that the claimant had failed to explain these errors and as a result, he had failed to meet the standard of proof required.

The Judge expressly found that the claimant was not deceitful or dishonest but concluded that he had not proven his claim and therefore his claim was dismissed.

Forbes comment

The claimant's account that he had been in the pub for approximately five hours prior to the accident combined with the contemporaneous A&E records noting that the claimant was intoxicated inevitably set alarm bells ringing. Whilst it is unusual for a court to make a finding that a claimant was so drunk as to negate causation, references to intoxication or alcohol in a claimant's medical records offers defendants a legitimate line of attack in cross-examination. If medical records suggest that a claimant was intoxicated at the time of the accident then it undermines his or her credibility as a reliable historian. It can also act as the basis for a finding of contributory negligence.

For more information contact Sarah Davisworth in our Insurance department via email or phone on 0113 386 2688. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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