Some time ago I wrote about defendants not having insurance to indemnify those injured either on their premises or as a result of their negligent actions. Click here to read my blog.
I recently concluded a long-running claim for a young client whose fingers were crushed when a door was slammed shut on them at the nursery school he attended. He was 14 months old at the time of his accident. His ring and right long fingers of his right hand were crushed in the door.
A letter of claim was sent to the nursery school at the address he had been attending putting them on notice of his claim and requesting details of the appropriate insurers.
What followed was a saga lasting several years whereupon different people responded on behalf of the nursery maintaining that either (a) my client had not attended the named nursery at that address or (b) that the manager and owner of the nursery whom my client’s mother had dealt with had nothing to do with the nursery we had written to.
I instructed an enquiry agent to carry out some further research. There was a lot of ducking and diving before we were eventually able to establish who was responsible for the nursery.
The saga continued. The company that owned one branch of the nursery was dissolved.
No insurers details were ever provided.
Proceedings were issued against the nursery owner personally on the basis that she had during correspondence confirmed that she traded as a differently named nursery at the same premises (and one that was managed by her but not by the company that had been dissolved of which she had also been a director).
Judgment was entered by the Court in my client’s favour because of the nursery owner’s complete failure to comply with the court proceedings.
The matter progressed towards trial to decide the amount of compensation my client should be awarded.
I disclosed copies of my client’s medical records, his mother’s witness statement and medical evidence but still the nursery owner failed to comply with the court proceedings.
Very shortly before the date given by the court for trial a firm of solicitors wrote to me to say that they had been instructed by the nursery owner and that she had thought the claim had been settled many years before and had no idea about the court proceedings. This was a surprise to me as I had had many communications from her by email and had, of course, copied all the court documents and correspondence to her by email in case they were not reaching her at her postal address.
The solicitors made a financial offer to settle my client’s compensation claim. This was a reasonable offer and one that my clients barrister and I had no hesitation in recommending to the court.
However, the issue of costs remained outstanding. The nursery owner, in fact, had no insurance in place for her nursery business and would be paying the compensation and legal costs herself.
At the child settlement approval hearing the nursery owner told the court that she was not employed, had no available funds and was living on welfare benefits. She claimed that she would only be able to make very modest monthly payments towards my client’s legal costs.
A fresh search of the Companies House website revealed that she is now the sole director of another nursery company at the same address with a very, very similar name to the nursery that my client had attended and where he was injured.
I wrote to the nursery owner’s solicitors pointing out that we were aware that their client was now operating another nursery at the same premises using a virtually identical name and that this would be drawn to the court’s attention. Not long after this the solicitors started to negotiate and an agreement was reached in relation to my client’s legal costs.
What started out as a relatively straightforward, modest value personal injury claim developed into a long-running saga. The nursery owner’s attitude and approach to the claim led to a considerable amount of work being carried out that would not otherwise have been required.
Whilst my client’s mother is happy that her son’s claim is finally over she is concerned to hear that the nursery owner is once again operating another nursery business at the same premises.
This case highlights to me the need for a register of insurers for organisations like private nurseries. This information should be readily available for parents to research before placing their children in someone else’s care.