Can-did Camera

Article

01 September, 2016

C v Trafford MBC
Manchester County Court

A Heineken beer can lurking inconspicuously in a photograph of an accident locus led to the demise of this claim for personal injury.

The claimant alleged that in January 2012, the front wheel of his bike went into a pothole in the road causing him to be thrown from his bike. He suffered a fractured hip.

The next day the claimant attended hospital. Due to the severity of his son's injury the father says that he returned to the accident locus to take photographs. Visible in those photographs, which were attached to the father's statement, was a Heineken can.

The claimant didn't commence a claim until January 2015, nearly two and a half years after his accident. Trafford MBC were surprised when shown the photographs of the state of the road in 2012. The photographs suggested that the road had been in an actionable condition for nearly two and a half years. Google street view images from 2012 seemed to show the condition of the road as being fair, with no actionable defect and certainly in a much better condition than was shown in the claimant's photographs. However, when the Google street view images were viewed later in time, the July 2014 images appeared to closely resemble what was shown in the claimant's photographs.

At this point, attention turned to the Heineken can shown in the photographs and investigations were carried out to see if there was a date that could be found as to when that design of the can (mostly silver with a green 'track' on the front, with a large red star on the rear) had appeared in the shops. A Heineken press release was located which confirmed that the design shown on the can in the photograph had not been launched until 2014, some two years post accident.

The defendant strongly suspected that the claimant's photographs were taken in 2014/2015 when the defect was in an actionable condition, as opposed to 2012 when the road was not actionable.

The article was disclosed to the claimant and on the morning of the trial he discontinued his claim.

Our comment

We are delighted with the outcome of this unusual claim. This case demonstrates the importance of thorough investigations.

Google street view images can be a useful tool for defendants. Whilst the clarity of the image is not always sufficient to establish the depth of a defect, the images can assist parties by providing a general view of an accident location at a particular time. This was enough to arouse suspicion and following further 'digging' we were able to obtain enough evidence to cast real doubt on the claimant's evidence.

For further information please contact Nick Holgate by email or call 0161 918 0000.

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