The recent insurance-related legal judgments and what they mean for the sector

Coach’s T-junction collision

Ben Woodham v JM Turner (T/A Turners of Great Barton) [2011]

Coach driver Sarah Turner was edging slowly out of a T-junction, through a gap in stationary traffic, when the claimant, 19-year-old Ben Woodham, was approaching from her right. Overtaking stationary traffic, Woodham failed to see the defendant emerging and turning right and collided with the coach.

The verdict

The court decided that the defendant should not have continued to move forward because she did not have a clear view, but that the claimant had contributed to the accident by not proceeding cautiously. The court found that the liability split should be 70% to the defendant and 30% to the claimant.

What this means

Amanda Tennyson, a solicitor in the motor unit at Langleys, says: “Although a defendant’s actions may inevitably cause a collision, a claimant will not escape blame for disregarding the foreseeability of the collision.”

Injury compensation claim

Mansfield v Mansfield [2011]

Kevin Mansfield lost a leg and suffered spinal injuries after being involved in a road traffic accident in 1998. He received damages of £500,000.

Five years later, he met his now ex-wife, Cathryn. They had twins but subsequently split up in 2008. As part of the divorce proceedings, Mrs Mansfield claimed that she was entitled to a share of her ex-husband’s personal injury compensation.

The verdict

The Court of Appeal ruled at the end of July that the compensation award should be regarded as an asset of the family, despite the pay out pre-dating the marriage. The court ordered that Mrs Mansfield was entitled to £285,000 for herself and her two children.

What this means

Sarah Hamilton, partner in solicitors Weightmans LLP, says that the verdict would give personal injury victims an additional reason to seek periodic payment orders rather than lump sum compensation payments in order to avoid a potential spouse receiving an “unjustified windfall”.

Alternative therapy costs

Mohammed Najib v John Laing Plc

Najib contracted mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos while employed by John Laing. As part of his damages, he sought a sum of just over £15,000 for photodynamic therapy – an alternative treatment not available through the NHS – where high doses of light are used to try to destroy cancerous cells.

The claimant had been told it could extend his life and feared the painful side effects of chemotherapy, but the defendant objected to paying for this treatment, which had failed to reduce the tumour and was not supported by Najib’s NHS physicians.

The verdict

The court allowed the cost of the treatment on the basis that, although the treating physicians had not endorsed it, neither had they told the claimant not to have it. The doctor who had told the claimant about the treatment appeared to have an appropriate medical qualification. The treatment was expensive but not unreasonably so.

What this means

A court may have sympathy for a claimant suffering pain and/or reduced life expectancy and on the basis of this judgment is unlikely to disallow the cost of alternative therapies unless the claimant has been told in plain terms that they will be ineffective.