File - Teaching With Crump!

The Courts: Procedure and
damages for negligence cases
Outline of civil courts and appeal
system for a negligence case
Lesson Objectives
• I will be able to draw a diagram of the civil court
structure showing appeal routes
• I will be able to state the jurisdiction of each court
• I will be able to distinguish between different
classifications of cases in negligence
• I will be able to state the burden of proof and standard
of care in a civil case
The civil courts
• The majority of negligence cases are heard in the
218 County Courts – the manner in which each
case is dealt with depends on the nature and size
of the claim
• The largest claims are heard in the High Court,
QBD – usually appeals go to the CoA (Civ D)
• For most legal cases in England and Wales, the
HoL is the final point of appeal
First appeal
Final appeal
•County Court
•High Court
•Court of Appeal
•(Civil Division)
•House of Lords
The courts of first instance
• A court of first instance is the court where a case
is first tried – this will be either the County Court
or the High Court
• These courts have different jurisdictions so will
hear different cases – the courts hope most cases
will be settled out of court or by ADR
• Lord Justice Thomas quote
• The reality is that the cases are heard
dependant on the track into which they fit
• The courts are responsible for case
management, with all cases allocated to one
of three ‘tracks’ (small claims, fast track, multitrack) according to their value and complexity
• If a negligence case is to be heard in the HC, it
is heard in the QBD
• Either side of a civil case can appeal against the judge’s
decision based on supposed errors of law or fact
• If the appeal is from the decision of a District Judge,
the first appeal will normally be to a Circuit Judge
• Such appeals are usually on procedural matters or
smaller claims in the County Court
• Thereafter, appeals go to the CoA with a further appeal
to the HoL
• The leapfrog procedure, which bypasses the CoA,
is only used where the case is of great legal
importance, and will take the appeal directly to
the HoL
• The appeals do not take the form of a complete
rehearing, but a consideration of the
documentary evidence in the case and the
judge’s notes of witness evidence
• Appeal judges rarely change the trial judge’s
finding of fact, as the trial judge will have seen
the way the witnesses behaved whilst on oath in
the witness box
• The appeal court has 3 options: it may affirm the
original judge’s decision (result it totally unchanged)
• It may vary the decision (usually by changing the
amount of damages awarded)
• It may reverse the judgement in the first hearing by
finding in favour of the other party (usually the
party making the appeal)
• Claims involving small sums and appeals to the HoL
require leave of the court, either from the court
where the appeal is coming from or the court it is
going to – leave to appeal just means permission to
The burden and standard of proof
• In civil law cases the burden of proof is on the claimant to
prove his claim on a balance of probabilities
• There is a lower standard than in most criminal cases – this
means the party bearing the burden of proof, the claimant,
must demonstrate that it is ‘more likely than not’ that the
defendant has been negligent
• The burden of proof is the obligation on a party to establish
the facts in issue in a case to the required degree of certainty
(the standard of proof) in order to prove their case
• In a civil trial the burden is upon the claimant to prove the
liability of the defendant – the standard of proof is on a
balance of probabilities
• There are, however, two exceptions to the rule that the
claimant must prove his case
• The first is that, if the defendant has been convicted of a
crime based on the same event, the claimant’s case in
negligence will be satisfied as a court has already been
satisfied that the defendant caused the wrongful act
beyond reasonable doubt which is a higher standard
• This comes from the Civil Evidence Act 1968 – thus a claim
for personal injuries arising from a car crash where the
driver has been convicted of dangerous driving will not
require proof of the driver’s negligence
• The driver would then have to proof that he was not
negligent (impossible, given the conviction) – the only
issue before the court is the amount of damages to be
• A more important exception is res ipsa loquitar –
this literally means ‘the thing speaks for itself’
• The idea is that the accident causing the damage
complained of would not have happened unless
someone had been negligent and the thing that
caused the accident was wholly under the control
of the defendant – this can be seen in a 3-part test
1. The thing that caused the harm was wholly
under the control of the defendant
2. The accident that caused the damage
complained of would not have happened unless
someone had been negligent
3. There is no other explanation of the injury
caused to the claimant
• The classic example is Scott v London and St
Katherine's Docks (1865) – the claimant was
walking along the dock when he was hit on the
head by a sack of sugar. Res ipsa loquitar applied
to the situation
• If the conditions are fulfilled, the claimant does
not have to prove his case – the burden of proof
shifts to the defendant who has the opportunity
to prove that he was not in fact negligent
• The modern explanation of res ipsa loquitur was
summarised in Bergin v David Wickes Television
Ltd (1994) as simply a convenient label for a
group of situations in which an unexplained
accident is, as a matter of common sense, the
basis for an inference of negligence
• A clear case is Mahon v Osborne (1938)
• There are occasions where the defendant can
show that he was not negligent and so the
claimant does not succeed despite using res
ipsa loquitur
• Pearson v North Western Gas Board (1968)
Res ipsa loquitur activity
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