29 June, 2020
Forbes recently represented a Local Authority in respect of multi-track case brought by a school boy who had suffered serious dental injuries when a door in a school corridor collided with his face. It was the claimant's case that a fellow pupil had accidentally pushed/kicked the door from the opposite direction as the claimant was going to push open the door. The claimant had obtained expert engineering evidence pre-action, the gist of which was that the vision panels featured in the doors were inadequate, contrary to best practice and did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations. The pleaded case also raised criticism of the alleged lack of supervision, the school's failure to demarcate the corridor with directional traffic routes and the failure to simply keep the doors open during periods of busy pedestrian traffic.
Forbes immediately recognised the importance of obtaining our own expert evidence to address the conclusions reached by the claimant's expert. This established that the relevant guidance in place at the time of the installation of the doors was complied with; there was no requirement to even have vision panels. The claimant's expert repeatedly referred to the failure to follow 'good practice' however he was unable to support this with relevant expert foundation. The experts subsequently prepared a joint report in which the expert instructed by Forbes put forward a more robust and persuasive stance.
The claimant's starting point on quantum was £25,000.00 for damages which, on the medical evidence, was reasonable. Their offers reduced following our expert's initial report (£10000) then following the joint report (£5000.00 damages plus a fixed amount of £30000.00 for costs) before they ultimately discontinued. These offers were undeniably attractive; the likely outlay at trial had the claimant being successful would have exceeded £100,000.00 and there is always a concern with claims for minors that they will attract the sympathy of the court.
Forbes maintained their robust stance throughout and advised the client not to be swayed by the offers. We remained satisfied that the court would prefer the evidence of our expert and clearly the claimant's solicitors ultimately recognised this. Expert evidence was key in this matter; lay witnesses would only take us so far on this occasion as the school were only able to comment upon the accident circumstances and the existence of any policies in place for the use of this corridor and doors (of which there were none). The early instruction of an expert enabled us to take a confident stance from the outset.
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.