Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Groarke -v- Fontaine

Groarke -v- Fontaine [2014] EWHC 1676 (QB), 22 May 2014

This case concerned a road traffic accident and the question of potential contributory negligence by the Claimant, the Defendant made a very late application (at the outset of the trial!) to amend his Defence.

This was initially refused but Sir David Eady sitting as a High Court Judge allowed the Defendant’s appeal, stating:-

The District Judge (like myself) was doing his best to apply the relevant principles, as expounded in the recent authorities, to the facts of this case. Having considered his reasons, however, my own respectful conclusion is that in examining the trees he ultimately failed to see the wood. Insofar as he balanced the potential prejudice to the Claimant against that to the Defendant, the exercise yielded the wrong outcome. I believe that justice and fairness required that the amendment should have been allowed so that ‘the real dispute’ between the parties could be adjudicated upon. It is true that the burden was on the Defendant to establish not only that this objective was desirable but also that it should, in the particular circumstances, prevail. I can see, however, no good reason why it should not. There was no countervailing prejudice to the Claimant. In particular there was no need for any adjournment, any further delay or additional cost. The court was able to accommodate the issues of causation (including those relevant to contribution) on the appointed trial date and (whether it was appropriate to do so or not) the District Judge actually stated what his conclusion would have been on contributory negligence. Thus no court time would have been wasted or court resources diverted. Correspondingly, no other court users would have been inconvenienced. The only concrete result of the District Judge’s refusal was that, at least on his (obiter) finding, the Claimant was to gain a windfall payment unjustly (para 32).

See: Groarke -v- Fontaine Judgment