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Taylor v Graham

1 June 2000
The issues

Fast Track – adhere to timetable

The facts

The Claimant had suffered two injuries in two separate road traffic accidents on 26th August 1994 and on 26th November 1995. The first action was commenced in June 1997. Special Damages were claimed in the sum of £5,000.00. The medical report anticipated symptoms to settle within 2 years.

In the second action commenced in November 1998, it was claimed that the effects of the first accident had been exacerbated and the Claimant’s symptoms might persist but no long-term consequences were expected and no claim for continuing future loss made. Although no reference was made in the pleadings to psychiatric injury subsequently a report surfaced indicating the Claimant was suffering from PTSD. Both Defendants admitted liability.

The decision

In January 1999 directions were given in respect of the second accident proving for a trial date of 12th October 1999. In March 1999 it was agreed that the two assessments be heard together. In April 1999 Directions were given in respect of both actions with a trial date fixed for 12th October 1999.

On 24th August 1999 the Claimant’s solicitors suggested to the Defendant’s solicitors that the directions be amended providing for the action to be allocated to the Multi Track. They intended to get more evidence and to seek an adjournment of the hearing in October. The Defendant’s solicitors refused to consent. On 6th September the Claimant’s solicitors applied for an adjournment claiming that the claim was now more significant that originally considered and that there was a risk of handicap on the labour market. That application was listed to be heard by the Trial Judge on 12th October. Counsel was instructed to appear only in respect of the adjournment. The Claimant was not told to attend. The Judge refused to adjourn, saying that the Claimant’s solicitors should have been ready to proceed. He considered the case on the basis of the medical evidence available and damages were awarded in a sum which did not beat the Defendant’s Part 36 Offer. The Claimant appealed arguing that the refusal of the adjournment was disproportionate in the sense that it penalised and prejudiced the Claimant with no corresponding prejudice to the decision. These were stale claims. There had been a good deal of delay before coming to 1999. The original claim had been made on information contained in medical report prepared on 1995 and 1997. Nothing had been done to update and the case had been allocated to the Fast Track. “That meant what it said and therefore adherence to the timetable was all the more important”. If the Claimant was suffering from psychiatric injuries, psychiatric evidence should have been obtained and disclosed. There had been such a report but it formed no part of the claim. The Judge had nothing before him as to whether such a claim could be substantiated and it was inevitable in those circumstances that he should refuse the application for the adjournment.

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