Scotland: The latest ride on the civil jury rollercoaster

31 May 2016

The latest ride on this rollercoaster took place at the Court of Session, Edinburgh, between 17 and 20 May 2016 when Lord Tyre presided over a civil jury trial in the case of Caroline Bridges v Alpha Insurance A/S. Caroline Bridges was a pedestrian on the road when she was hit by a taxi. She was injured. The taxi windscreen was smashed. Alpha Insurance A/S insured the taxi driver. Both liability and quantum were for the jury to determine.

The case

On Saturday 22 November 2014, Caroline Bridges met two friends at 8pm in Wilkies Bar, Henderson Street, Edinburgh, a place where she had previously worked. She drunk some vodka and irn bru. The three then went to the Central Bar, Leith Walk, to see a live band. Caroline had some more vodka and irn bru. She gave evidence that she stopped drinking at about 10pm or 10.30pm because she was baby-sitting for her daughter at 9am the next day and that she had had, in total “2, 3 drinks maybe, can’t really remember”.

At 1am on Sunday 23 November 2014, Caroline was on the Leith Walk road, trying to hail a taxi. She suddenly changed direction on the road, into the path of a taxi and was hit by that.

The contemporaneous medical records were to the effect that Caroline was intoxicated. Caroline responded to those by saying “not in my opinion, maybe in his opinion”.

Caroline was significantly injured. She was taken to hospital by ambulance and stayed there for 6 days. Her left knee was fractured, albeit that that was not diagnosed until 8 weeks post-accident, by which time the fracture had healed badly such that no surgical intervention could assist. It was agreed that Caroline may need a total left knee replacement in the future.

In Caroline’s counsel’s opening speech to the jury, it was explained that the award of damages sought was £250,000, although that was described as an “upper limit”.

The Jury verdict

The jury decided that the taxi driver was at fault and assessed damages in full at £38,900.

The jury also decided that Caroline should bear 85% contributory negligence, with the result that her damages were to be reduced so that she would receive £5,835.

The end result and what this means

A Tender (Scottish equivalent of a Part 36 offer) of £15,000 had been lodged. Since Caroline did not beat the tender, it is anticipated that she will bear the cost of the case from the date of that.

It was once thought that civil jury trials were more favourable to claimants. On the civil jury roller coaster, though, matters are not as clear-cut as that.  

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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