Mr Kevin Lynch v AIG UK Ltd. In the Birmingham County Court before Deputy District Judge O’Hagan.
Plexus Law was instructed to defend a Small Claims Credit Hire claim. The incident occurred on the 9th April 2019. Liability was admitted by the Defendant on the 28th May 2019. The circumstances surrounding the incident were that the insured driver was driving in heeled shoes which unfortunately became stuck, and the Defendant collided with the rear of the Claimant’s vehicle.
Due to the facts of the case, the quantum aspect of the claim was unable to be settled at pre-litigation. The Claimant instructed True Solicitors to issue proceedings which occurred in September 2019.
The Claimant pursued a variety of losses which came to a grand total of £5,396.26. The Claimant did suffer a personal injury however, this was able to be settled at pre-litigation.
The Claimant obtained a hire vehicle from Accident Exchange for a period of 15 days. The hire period was from the 16th April 2019 until the 30th April 2019. The date in which hire started was also the same day in which the Claimant vehicle was sent to the garage to be inspected. Upon inspection, the vehicle was declared roadworthy. At which point, it was declared that it would take three days to repair subject to parts availability.
The Claimant’s engineering evidence confirmed new parts would be required. The Defendant’s best offer for period was three days, as per the engineering evidence. The Defendant advanced an argument that any reasonable man would continue using the roadworthy vehicle and wait for the repairing garage to receive the parts prior to handing over the keys, thus reducing the hire period.
The Claimant confirmed he was not impecunious and therefore the Defendant was prepared to offer basic hire rates in attempt to settle the claim.
A Calderbank offer was therefore proposed by the Defendant which was ultimately rejected by the Claimant. The Defendant considered it inappropriate to put forward any further offers, this was a case which was to proceed to a hearing.
At the hearing, the Claimant was cross-examined regarding enforceability and period. During cross-examination, the answers provided to the Defendant were reasonable and therefore the enforceability argument was conceded. Therefore, rate and period were the main causes of dispute.
In terms of rate, the Defendant put forward a rate of £47.73 as the lowest basic hire rate and the cheapest way to achieve a NIL excess was a standalone product of £11.99. The opposing Counsel did provide rebuttal evidence however, conceded that the judge should award the offer of the basic hire rate put forward by the Defendant as the rebuttal evidence was too high.
In terms of period, the Claimant accepted during cross-examination that had he been responsible for the hire charges and been informed of the repair time, the Claimant would have acted reasonably and waited for all the parts to be received.
The Claimant was informed that the engineers had an issue with the reinforced steel bar beneath the bumper therefore was under instruction to drive his roadworthy vehicle to the garage and at this point was able to collect the hire vehicle. The Claimant was under the impression that from his point of view, his vehicle and the claim were now in the hands of the garage and his insurer. The judge accepted that the Claimant was not a man to dispute what he is told and accepted that the Claimant made two telephone calls to chase for updates.
The Defendant submitted that the problem with the reinforced steel bumper made no change to the time it would take to repair the vehicle and that when the Defendant requested an update, they were informed by Accident Exchange ‘nothing specific, just generally took this long. The engineer’s duration was just an estimate’.
The Defendant also submitted the case of Chatterton V AXA Corporate Solutions (2016) to rely upon as this case illustrates the approach taken in such cases like these.
Following submissions, DDJ O’Hagan was satisfied that the correct period was three days as that was the length of time taken to repair the car. He expressed his discomfort and unhappiness with this decision as he could see that the Claimant was simply doing what he was told and that he did not act unreasonably and that it would be unfair of the Claimant to pay the remaining damages and stressed this to opposing Counsel to inform the Claimant insurer of this.
The Claimant was awarded damages of £2,027.65 with costs added.
Following the hearing, the judge made the following Order: ‘the Court expressing the view that the responsibility both for the nature of the agreement (a credit hire) and its duration lay with the Claimant’s insurers and/or the garage where the vehicle was repaired and not with the Claimant personally, and further expressing the hope that the insurers will cover the difference between the amount paid and the amount recovered’ .
This case acts as an example that when proceedings are issued in the name of the Claimant and liability is accepted, the true beneficiary is not just the Claimant, but is in fact the Claimant solicitors, the Credit Hire Organisation and even the repairing garage. They are all working in conjunction with each other to ensure the best possible outcome for the Claimant and working in their best interest to mitigate costs.
This case was a fair outcome for both parties as it shows that the Defendant should not be liable for roadworthy vehicles taking a significant period of time to repair without explanation and evidence. It is also a fair outcome for the Claimant, in that he should not be pursued for the lost damages.
To view/download this Case Alert as a PDF please click here. For any further information regarding this matter please speak to your contact at Plexus Law:
James Ormsby, Credit Hire Legal Assistant
T: 0113 4681 638 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org