The Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury (Employers’ Liability and Public Liability) Claims (EL/PL Protocol) and the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents require the Claimant to submit all evidence relied upon in support of a claim with the Stage 2 Settlement Pack. Can a Claimant, at a Stage 3 Hearing, rely on additional documents which were not served within the Stage 2 Settlement Pack? In Wickes Building Supplies Limited v William Blair, the Court of Appeal considered this question.
In this case, upon service of the Stage 3 Part 8 proceedings, the Claimant attempted to rely upon a Witness Statement which had not been served with the Stage 2 Settlement Pack; paragraph 6.3 of Practice Direction 8B of the Civil Procedure Rules provides that the Court Proceedings Pack must include only documents which were served at Stage 2.
At the Stage 3 Hearing, the District Judge decided that it would be wrong to permit the Claimant to rely on the Witness Statement, assessing damages at £2,000.00. The Claimant appealed to a Circuit Judge who set aside the District Judge’s Order, dismissing the Part 8 Stage 3 claim and allowing the Claimant to commence Part 7 proceedings; whilst the costs payable to the Claimant would be limited to the Stage 3 fixed costs, allowing the claim to move to Part 7 would have increased the cost to the Defendant of handling the claim.
Wickes appealed that decision and Lord Justice Baker gave the Court of Appeal’s leading judgment. The Defendant was not seeking to oppose the Stage 3 proceedings but was objecting to Claimant’s relying on the Witness Statement which had been served after Stage 2.
If the Defendant had objected to the claim proceeding under the Protocol, at that point the Court would be under a duty to dismiss the claim, enabling the Claimant to start Part 7 proceedings (provided that limitation has not expired). However, where the Defendant agreed to the claim proceeding to Stage 3 hearing but objected to the Court’s considering the evidence which had not been served at Stage 2 the Court could refuse to allow the additional evidence to be considered.
In restoring the District Judge’s original Order, the Court of Appeal has given a judgment which should benefit Defendants and their insurers, enabling them to prevent Claimants from relying on additional evidence which is served in order to increase the value of claims whilst retaining them within the low cost Stage 3 process.