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James Arney KC, instructed by Christopher Kardahji of Irwin Mitchell, secured a £1.35m settlement against two defendants (D1 and D2) in a claim in which both liability and quantum were fiercely contested.
The facts of this RTC were that the deceased struck the rear of D1’s car in the slow lane of the motorway, causing the deceased’s vehicle to lose electrical power and come to rest in the fast lane. Several seconds later D2’s van collided with the deceased (who had exited the vehicle) and his stationary unlit car, killing the deceased.
The unusual liability case against D1 was that she was driving too slowly (30-35mph), because of her improper use of her mobile phone at the time. D1’s phone use was extreme, involving 116 voice calls and about 100 text messages during the 90 minutes preceding the collision, on a phone device that was not hands-free. The claimant (the deceased’s wife) had obtained an order for specific disclosure of D1’s phone records, including the text messages.
The main case against D2 was that having seen several cars brake in the slow lane, he should not have switched into the fast lane and maintained his speed (at about 70mph), which was in any event too fast.
The claimant had to accept that the deceased was himself at fault for failing to avoid D1’s slow-moving vehicle. Of the two defendants, the claimant would have contended that D2 was more culpable than D1, but that D1 should not escape some liability.
Quantum issues were also keenly disputed. The deceased owned and ran a fledgling haulage business, operating just a single truck. The claimant’s case is that this would have evolved into a more substantial 14-truck business, similar to that owned by the deceased’s brother. Forensic accountancy experts considered the impact on profitability of varying business models, between 1 and 14 trucks. A further claim was made in respect of the lost inheritance of a more substantial business.
The case also engaged cultural issues, the claimant contending that her son was likely to remain living in the family home throughout his adult life.
Settlement reflected the claimant’s expectations on liability issues, together with inevitable compromise as to the likely scale of the deceased’s business.
At the approval hearing, an interim payment on account of costs was agreed in the region of 70% of incurred and 90% of budgeted costs, plus budgeting costs and VAT, in line with the Court’s decision in Puharic v Silverbond Enterprises Limited  EWHC 389 (QB).
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