Don't drop the baby

Article

01 May, 2015

Willis v Pennine Housing 2000

DJ Gardner

Forbes has successfully defended a claim at trial on behalf of Pennine Housing. The claimant alleged that whilst descending the steps at the front of her property she lost her balance and fell due to loose paving slabs on the steps. She was carrying her granddaughter at the time of the accident.

The claim was brought pursuant to the Occupiers Liability Act. The court found a number of inconsistencies in the claimant's evidence at trial, describing the evidence of the claimant as "greatly undecided". Here is a summary of some of the inconsistencies which came out at trial:

  • The claimant was asked whether she was aware of the defect prior to her accident. She advised that she was aware of the defect but on other occasions she advised that she was unaware of the defect.
  • The bundle contained a number of incompatible photographs. The first photograph showed the steps to be intact however the second photograph showed the paving stones in a poor state of repair and the paving flag had clearly been moved.
  • During cross examination the claimant confirmed that she had not used the handrail to assist her. Incredulously, she agreed that had she used the hand rail then the accident would not have happened.
  • The Judge was troubled by the claimant's failure to report the accident to Pennine Housing until 6 months after the accident despite being well aware of the reporting procedures.
  • The claimant claimed to have no knowledge of a claim of almost identical circumstances brought by a close family friend, less than 4 months after the index accident. The repair for this accident was logged against the claimant's address. The judge found that the claimant's evidence that she was completely unaware of this subsequent accident as being "incredible".

The claimant failed to discharge the burden of proof and the claim was dismissed by the judge.

Forbes comment

This case demonstrates the importance of cross referencing claims. In this matter, it soon became apparent that Forbes had previously handled a claim relating to an accident which had allegedly occurred on the same flight of steps. The claim had been denied by Forbes and it had not been pursued any further. The claimant denied having any knowledge of this claim, despite it being made by a close family friend outside of her home. This evidence was vital in discrediting the claimant's credibility.

For further information or advice please contact Sarah Davisworth on 0113 244 6688 or email sarah.davisworth@forbessolicitors.co.uk.

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