19 July, 2018
Allen v Oldham MBC - Manchester CC
The claimant alleged that he was out walking his friend's dog, when he tripped due to a pothole in the alleyway. He fell and sustained an injury. Breach of duty was admitted but the defendant remained unconvinced by the claim and put the claimant to strict proof at the trial.
During the trial, the court closely examined the accident mechanics and considered whether it was the alleged pothole which had caused him to fall. The Judge noted that this was a large pothole, it was daylight and the claimant was a young and fit man. He found it surprising that if he was walking along in daylight that he would not have seen it in normal circumstances. When the claimant attended hospital a few hours after the accident, it was recorded in the triage records 'Pt states has been walking the dog been pulled over fallen and banged head to kerb' On the second page, it was recorded 'Trip and fell today - hit gravel kerb'.
The Judge accepted that the claimant did fall and suffer an injury to his forehead. However, the Judge did not accept that he had suffered an injury to his knee. The first reference to a knee injury appeared in the medico legal report. The claimant fully accepted this was the first time he had told anyone about the knee injury.
During his evidence, the claimant explained that he returned to the scene the same day and reconstructed the circumstances of the accident. However, the Judge was not convinced by the claimant and found that in all likelihood he noticed the large pothole and assumed that this was where he had fallen "he put two and two together and came out with four".
The Judge was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the pothole had caused the accident and he therefore dismissed the claim.
Whilst the Judge had no doubts about the claimant's honesty, he could not overlook the contemporaneous records which contained no reference to a pothole or a knee injury. It is not unusual for claimants to suggest that medical records are incorrect and as the Judge pointed out, medical records are 'not the holy writ'. However, doctors and nurses are required to make as accurate record of a consultation as possible and in most instances such evidence is difficult to contest.
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