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Cases - civil process
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Afzal v Ford Motor Co [1994] CA

Aiden Shipping v Interbulk (The Vimeria) [1986] HL

Aitken v Preston (1997) CA

Alltrans Express v CVA Holdings [1984] CA

Anton Piller v Manufacturing Processes [1976] CA

Bennett v Chemical Construction [1971] CA

Bolton v Stone [1951] HL

Chilton v Saga Holidays [1986] CA

Clarkson v Gilbert. (2000) CA

Fitzgerald v Lane [1988] HL

Griffiths v Williams (1995) CA

H v Ministry of Defence [1991] CA

Halford v Brookes (1991) Rougier J

Henderson v Merrett Syndicates [1994] HL

Hornal v Neuberger [1956] CA

Lawrence v Chester Chronicle (1986) CA

M v Cain (1989) CA

Mareva v International Bulkcarriers [1980]

Nimmo v Alexander Cowan and sons Ltd [1968] HL

Rantzen v Mirror Group Newspapers [1994] CA

Re Dellow's Will Trusts [1964] Ungoed-Thomas J

Roache v News Group (1992) CA

Robinson v Post Office [1974] CA

Scarth v UK (1998) ECHR

Ward v James [1965] CA

Wilsher v Essex Health Authority [1988]  HL

Wright v Lodge & Shepherd [1993] CA

Leading civil cases

Index of leading cases, from 2002

Grouped by year and subject

Afzal v Ford Motor Co [1994] CA

^[Civil Process – referral to small claims track - no legal aid possible]
D the employers in conjoined appeals (21 others). CC suffered minor injuries at work, claimed compensation, most of which were below the £1,000 threshold.  The claims were referred (without consent) to Small Claims Arbitration. CC overstated the amount of the claim (£3,000 which he could never achieve) to avoid referral to the Small Claims Arbitration procedure. They attempted to avoid referral in order to claim legal costs.


Held
: The small claims arbitration procedure is intended to improve access to justice. The automatic referral decision was correct.  There is no reason in principle why low-value personal injury claims brought by an employee against his employer should not be dealt with in this way; the absence of legal aid was no reason for transferring such cases to the court proper.

 

D succeeded in part

Aiden Shipping v Interbulk (The Vimeria) [1986] HL

[Civil Process – exception to costs rule]
Following a shipping dispute, involving charterers, sub-charterers and owners of a ship, the judge in the second action (between the charterers and the sub-charterers) ordered the owners to pay the costs of the case.


Held: 
In exceptional circumstances, the court can order that a non-party to the action pay costs.

Aitken v Preston (1997) CA

 

Whole case here

 

^[Civil Process - jury trial an exception]
D the Guardian and
Granada television, libelled Jonathan Aitkin (the subsequently imprisoned Tory minister) and (at C's request) Popplewell J ordered a non-jury trial.

Held: The trial would involve the prolonged examination of documents, and a jury could not conveniently do that. The emphasis now was against jury trials, and a single judge would give a reasoned judgement for or against the claimant on each of the issues in dispute, whereas a jury would give only a general verdict perhaps leaving some doubt as to whether C or DD had been vindicated in relation to some issues.

 

Order affirmed

Alltrans Express v CVA Holdings [1984] CA

[Civil Process – normal rule - loser pays costs]
D breached a contract but disputed damages.  A trial was held to decide that issue. The judge, the Official Referee found C had suffered no loss and awarded only nominal damages of £2, but reluctantly made an order for costs.


Held
: D had won in effect even though not in form.

D won and did not have to pay costs

Anton Piller v Manufacturing Processes [1976] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

Whole case here

^[Tort –equitable remedies – search orders]

C believed D was about to infringe their copyright of a computer converter; they knew that if they started legal action D would destroy all incriminating documents.

C made an ex parte application for an order to enter the defendants’ premises in order to inspect, remove or make copies of documents belonging to the C.

 

Held: The court could make such an order, but should exercise it only in an extreme case where there was grave danger of property being smuggled away or of vital evidence being destroyed.

The order was not, however, a search warrant authorising C to enter a D’s premises against his will, but an order on D in personam to permit C’s entry or be in peril of proceedings for contempt of court.

 
In practice the claimant’s representatives enters the premises (under the supervision of an experienced solicitor).
 

This search order has nothing to do with the police.
 

Lord Denning MR:

"During the last 18 months the judges of the Chancery Division have been making orders of a kind not known before. They have some resemblance to search warrants. Under these orders the plaintiff and his solicitors are authorised to enter the defendant’s premises so as to inspect papers, provided the defendant gives permission.
Now this is the important point: the court orders the defendant to give them permission. The judges have been making these orders on ex parte applications without prior notice to the defendant.".
 

The order was made and subsequent orders became known as Anton Piller Orders, now called a Search Order

Also here.

Bennett v Chemical Construction [1971] CA

[Civil Process - plea of res ipsa loquitur]
D employed C a workman who was injured by falling panels.


Held
; Panels do not ordinarily fall in the absence of negligence, res ipsa loquitur applied and the onus was on the company to prove some other explanation.

Bolton v Stone [1951] HL

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

Whole case here

 

[Civil Process – negligence - costs of precautions]
D a cricket club, allowed a ball to fly over a fence. C was standing on the road outside her house and was struck by a cricket ball. The action was both in negligence and in nuisance.


Held
: such a rare event did not warrant a finding for C.

Chilton v Saga Holidays [1986] CA

[Civil Process – procedure for  Small Claims]
D provided a disappointing holiday to a couple C.  The action was heard in the Small Claims court. D's solicitor was allowed to put questions to them through the registrar, but not allowed to cross-examine C directly.


Held
: the right to confront the witnesses against you was fundamental to the adversarial system of justice, and could not be denied even in the interests of supposed fairness.

D won

Clarkson v Gilbert (2000) CA

[Civil Process - Litigation friend - Rights of audience]
C, a litigant in person in proceedings for breach of contract and libel, was not allowed to have her husband speak for her under the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 s.27 (2)(c). C was unable to conduct proceedings herself due to her ill health and lack of means.


Held
: any objections which existed to granting rights of audience to an unauthorised person providing an advocacy service did not apply to a husband wishing to assist his wife and that it was appropriate in the interests of justice to allow C's husband to advocate on her behalf.

C won

Fitzgerald v Lane [1988] HL

[Civil Process – negligence - damage, concurrent causes – joint liability]
C was struck on a pelican crossing by a car driven without due care, thrown into the path of another car also driven without due care, and struck by that car too. There was no medical or scientific evidence to show which of the two cars had been the cause of C's injuries.


Held
: the two drivers should be jointly liable.

Griffiths v Williams (1995) CA

[Civil Process - action for rape]
The Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute because there was no realistic prospect of a conviction. The female victim C took action in the civil courts and was awarded £50 000 damages for rape after a jury trial


Held
: Decision upheld

H v Ministry of Defence [1991] CA

[Civil Process - damages best assessed by judge alone]
D’s doctors negligently treated C, a soldier as a result he lost most of his penis. There was a jury trial on the question of damages.


Held
: Lord Donaldson MR said damages for personal injuries should in almost all cases be assessed by a judge because of the need to ensure comparability: this particular injury was a rare one, but a judge would be able to match it to the standard tariff much better than a jury. Obiter, a jury might be appropriate where the injuries were the result of abuse of authority and exemplary damages were claimed.

Allowed D's appeal and ordered that damages be assessed by a judge alone

Halford v Brookes (1991) Rougier J

[Civil Process - standard of proof]
D assaulted C’s daughter who died.  C suing as administratrix brought a civil action for damages.  Neither defendant had been convicted of any offence.

Held; court adopted the criminal standard of proof: no one even in a civil court should be declared guilty of murder unless the court was sure that there was no other sensible conclusion.

C won

Henderson v Merrett Syndicates [1994] HL

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

Whole case here

 

[Civil Process - C can claim in tort or contract]
C and other Lloyds "names" sued their underwriting agents for negligent mismanagement of their affairs.


Held
: C’s claims in tort should go for trial. A claimant, who has remedies available in tort and in contract, is free to choose whichever appears to him to be the most advantageous so long as the contract does not expressly preclude this.

Hornal v Neuberger [1956] CA

 

 

[Civil Process – standard of proof]
D breached his contract with C.  There was an element of fraud.


Held
: Although a crime, the civil standard of proof was all that was required. Denning LJ; it would be ridiculous to find that the making of a statement had been proved as regards a breach of warranty (which is purely civil) but not proved as regards fraud (which involves criminality). However, the degree of probability required might be more than in a simple case of negligence.

 

Lawrence v Chester Chronicle (1986) CA

 

 

[Civil Process – standard of proof]
D a newspaper libelled C who sued.


Held
: the standard of proof does not have to be higher than usual because the allegation was a serious one.

M v Cain (1989) CA

[Civil Process – standard of proof]
D raped C but was not prosecuted.  C sued in the civil courts.


Held
: C must accept a burden of proof in proportion, as the offence was grave. The judge had been satisfied on a balance of probabilities, but that was not enough.

C lost

Mareva v International Bulkcarriers [1980]

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

[Civil Process - Mareva Injunction, now called a freezing order]
C sought an order restraining D from destroying assets or removing them from the jurisdiction.

 

Held: If served on D's bank, the bank is equally bound. (Equitable remedies act in personam and bind anyone knowing of them.)

Nimmo v Alexander Cowan and sons Ltd [1968] HL

[Civil Process - balance of probabilities]
D employed C who was assaulted by other workers. An employer is under a statutory duty to provide a safe place of work so far as was reasonably practicable.

Held: only the employers were in a position to know what further measures might have been taken, and D therefore had the burden of showing there was no more they could have done.

The standard required in most civil cases is "more likely than not", but in cases based on assault (particularly serious assault) something more may be needed.

 

Rantzen v Mirror Group Newspapers [1994] CA

Whole case here

[Civil Process – CA can reduce jury’s award of damages in libel]
Esther Rantzen had her award for damages reduced by the Court of Appeal exercising its new powers under the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.

From £250,000 to just under half that sum

Also here

Re Dellow's Will Trusts [1964] Ungoed-Thomas J

[Civil Process – standard of proof]
It was alleged that a wife had unlawfully killed her husband. The action was in respect of the will.


Held
: the more serious the allegation made, the more cogent the evidence must be to overcome the inherent unlikelihood of what was alleged.

 

Roache v News Group (1992) CA

[Civil Process – loser pays costs]
C, Barlow of Coronation Street claimed damages for libel refused to accept an offer of settlement (formerly a payment into court) and proceeded to trial, where he won the amount offered together with an injunction against further publication. The trial judge held he was entitled to his costs.


Held
: the claim for injunctive relief had not been a significant factor in the decision to continue: C could almost certainly have secured an undertaking as a condition of accepting the offer, and he was really hoping for a higher sum in damages.

C ordered to pay both sides' costs from the date of the offer (usual practice)

Robinson v Post Office [1974] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

[Civil Process – negligence standard of proof – chain or causation]
D employed C who slipped on a ladder at work because of oil on the step.  C suffered a minor injury. At hospital, he was given an anti-tetanus injection.  He contracted encephalitis due to an allergy of which he was previously unaware.


Held
: The hospital was negligent but not liable, since even the proper procedure would not have revealed the allergy. C's employers, on the other hand, were legally responsible for the encephalitis as well as for the minor injury: if a wrongdoer ought to foresee that as a result of his wrongful act the victim may require medical treatment then he is liable for the consequences of the treatment applied although he could not reasonably foresee those consequences.

 

Scarth v UK (1998) ECHR

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

[Civil Process – small claims to be heard in public]
A human rights case.  The European Commission said hearing cases in private might violate a person's right to a public trial.


Held
; Small claims track hearings therefore take place in public unless there are good reasons to make an exception.

 

Ward v James [1965] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

[Civil Process – jury trial to be an exception]
D admitted seriously injuring C in a road accident but contested the amount of damages. Jury trial was refused.


Held
: A jury should not be ordered in personal injury cases save in exceptional circumstances.

Lord Denning:

"Let it not be supposed that this court is in any way opposed to trial by jury.  It has been the bulwark of our liberties too long for any of us to seek to alter it.  Whenever a man is on trial for serious crime, or when in a civil case a man's honour or integrity is at stake, or when one or other party must be deliberately lying, then trial by jury has no equal."
 

"But in personal injury cases trial by jury has given place of late to trial by judge alone, the reason being simply this, that in these cases trial by a judge alone is more acceptable to the great majority of people. Rarely does a party ask in these cases for a jury. When a solicitor gives advice, it runs in this way: If I were you, I should not ask for a jury. I should have a judge alone. You do know where you stand with a judge, and if he goes wrong, you can always go to the Court of Appeal. But as for a jury, you never know what they will do, and if they do go wrong, there is no putting them right."

 

"Up to the year 1854 all civil cases in the courts of common law were tried by juries. There was no other mode of trial available. Since 1854 trial by jury in civil cases has gradually lessened, until it is now only some two per cent of the whole."

Wilsher v Essex Health Authority [1988] HL

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

Whole case here

 

[Civil Process – negligence – causation – the balance of probabilities]
D the hospital where C was born prematurely. C was negligently given excess oxygen. He developed an incurable eye condition.


Held
: his blindness could have been caused by any of half a dozen factors, of which the hospital's admitted negligence was just one.

The combination of negligence and injury did not in itself create a presumption of causation.

It was not for D to show an alternative cause but for C to show (on a balance of probabilities) that the negligence had caused the damage, or had at least materially contributed to it, and this he could not do.


C lost

Wright v Lodge & Shepherd [1993] CA

 

 

[Civil Process – nature of liability]
D swerved across the central reservation and struck two cars, injuring W and killing K.  D had swerved to avoid a lorry (driven by L) that had run into the back of broken down mini (driven by S) on an unlit dual carriageway in fog. D admitted liability but claimed a contribution from the driver of the mini.


Held
: The driver of the mini was 10 per cent responsible for the injuries.

 

 

 

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