In a new feature, PremextrAdvice provides exclusive insights from expert commentators. This month, Chris Gutteridge, personal injury barrister at Exchange Chambers reveals histop five recent judgments in our recommended reading for PI practitioners.
Having scanned the courts over the last month, there can be little doubt about the most influential cases. My top five begins with news from the Court of Appeal in a case which has significant implications about the careful testing of post-accident medical records…
1. Evidence: Goodman v Faber  EWCA Civ 153
In a dispute about the extent of a claimant's injury, a trial judge should not ignore contemporaneous medical records. The Court of Appeal suggested that it was difficult for trial judges to decide by reference to a witness's demeanour in the witness box whether the evidence was reliable and said that other evidence which might support or undermine testimony must be considered. For that purpose, contemporary documents would often provide a valuable guide to the truth and witness evidence should be tested against post-accident medical records.
2. Road Traffic Accident: Pursoty v Vaghani (21/3/13 QBD)
A pedestrian stepped into a road from between two stationary vehicles without looking and into a collision with a passing van. The van driver had no opportunity to avoid a collision. The trial judge found that the pedestrian was wholly to blame for the accident and rejected the pedestrian's argument that the van should have been travelling more slowly to account for the possibility that a pedestrian might negligently step out into the road. That would have been imposing an unrealistic and unreasonably high standard of care. The judge made reference to a decision of the Court of Appeal (Sam v Atkins  EWCA Civ 1452) in which a similar argument on behalf of an injured pedestrian was labelled 'an unattainable counsel of perfection'.
3. Employer's Liability: Sharp v Top Flight Scaffolding Ltd.  EWHC 479
The employer of a scaffolder who fell whilst descending the outside of a scaffold because no ladder had been built into it was primarily liable for the accident (on the basis that, amongst other things, the scaffolder had insufficient training and had not been provided with safety equipment). However, the injured party had been the one responsible for building the scaffold and the trial judge decided he must have realised risk that created. Further, the scaffolder had made a deliberate decision to descend the outside of the scaffold, knowing it was dangerous and so his contributory negligence was assessed at 60%.
4. Public Liability: Jackson v Oxfordshire County Council (26/3/13 QBD)
Whilst at school and being pushed up a ramp in a wheelchair by a teaching assistant, the claimant tipped out of his seat and suffered injuries. The local authority was not liable for the accident. It was not clear what had caused the wheelchair to tip but it was thought to have been a pencil lying on the ramp. Even if it was that, it would have been difficult to conclude that the teaching assistant had been negligent in failing to see it whilst required to concentrate on steering the chair and looking out for pedestrian traffic.
5. Road Traffic Accidents: Whitehead v Bruce, Craig and Baxter  EWCA Civ 229
In an accident involving 3 vehicles, each driver was partly to blame. One had been parked in a dangerous position near a bend where overtaking was forbidden (35% liable); one had taken a wide path to overtake that parked car and had done so too slowly (30% liable); the third had approached from the other direction at an unsafe speed (35% liable).