Wood v Days Healthcare UK Ltd & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 2097

The Court of Appeal has found that a material increase in the value of a claim is a relevant factor when considering an application to withdraw an admission of liability.

The Defendant's insurers appointed a loss adjuster to deal with a personal injury claim against the Defendant. The loss adjusters were told by the Claimant's solicitors that it was expected that the claim would fall within the fast track (i.e. have a limit of £25,000). Three months later, the loss adjusters formally conceded liability. When the Claimant commenced proceedings, a claim in excess of £300,000 was brought.

The Defendant subsequently applied for permission to withdraw this pre-action admission, pursuant to CPR r14.1A, but permission was refused by the judge at first instance. The Defendant appealed and has now won that appeal.

The Court of Appeal noted that Practice Direction 14 provides that the court should have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including whether new evidence has come to light which was not available at the time the admission was made.

It was held that the judge had been wrong to hold that there had been no new evidence in this case: "it seems to me indisputable that highly material new evidence had come to light. This was in the form of further evidence as to the extent of the injury allegedly caused and, in consequence, quantum. What had been presented in 2010 as "currently" a fast-track claim, involving less than £25,000, had subsequently become in 2012 a claim in excess of £300,000".

Although an increase of "a few thousand pounds" was an acceptable and foreseeable "inherent risk", a ten-fold increase was entirely different. Furthermore, the judge's approach would discourage speedy admission of liability by insurers in lower value claims.