21 July, 2015
Forbes has recently successfully defended an unusual case at trial. The Claimant had parked his car outside a cemetery and had attempted to take his own life. A member of the public happened to notice something was wrong and contacted the Emergency Services just in time. The Claimant was admitted to a Mental Health Unit where he remained for 2 months. In the meantime, his car was still parked outside the cemetery, seemingly abandoned. As the car was on land forming part of the highway, the local authority duly removed the car which it was under a duty to do under section 3 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. The car was subsequently destroyed.
Once the Claimant was discharged from the Mental Health Unit, he realised what had happened to his car and made a claim (as a litigant in person) against the local authority for unlawfully destroying his car. He claimed for the resale value of his car together with the cost of various items in the car at the time, including a golf trolley and golf shoes. The Defendant was not aware of any contents in the vehicle and in any event these would have been destroyed along with the car.
The claim was allocated to the Small Claims track given the value of the claim and eventually proceeded to a trial despite the Claimant providing minimal evidence in support of his claim. At trial, the Claimant's claim was dismissed as the Judge agreed with the Defendant that it had acted appropriately in accordance with its statutory duties and powers as set out in the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978.
Under section 3 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 the local authority has a duty to remove abandoned vehicles. The Defendant had made ample attempts to contact the Claimant prior to removing and destroying the vehicle and had affixed a notice to the car. The local authority had lawfully exercised its discretion to destroy what was on the face of it a 16 year old abandoned vehicle.