Court allows appeal in part in case arising from injuries sustained during transportation by prison van


Re: Mahoney v GEOAmey & Anor [2014] EWHC 2563 (QB)

An appeal by the claimant against orders refusing his application for (1) permission to rely on expert evidence and (2) permission to amend his Particulars of Claim.

The case related to personal injuries suffered by the claimant while being transported in a prison van. He was detained within a cubicle with no seat belt and alleged that the van was driven in a rapid and erratic manner, causing him to strike his head on the wall, on the head restraint behind him and on the sides of the head restraints. The claimant alleged that as a result of this, he vomited and developed a headache and that after spending time in hospital he was diagnosed as having developed facial nerve palsy.

The claim against the first defendant settled. The claim against the second defendant continued. The claimant alleged that the second defendant acted negligently in breach of its common law duty of care by: (1) failing to ensure that transfer arrangements were made for the claimant in accordance with accepted road safety standards, particularly the provision of seat belts; (2) failing to ensure a proper risk assessment of the risks inherent in the failure to provide seat belts; and (3) failure to ensure the claimant was driven in a manner that took proper account of the absence of a seat belt. The claimant also advanced claims under the Human Rights Act 1998. The claimant later made applications for permission to instruct a seat belt expert and to amend his Particulars of Claim to include allegations that his rights under European Union law had also been violated. The Master refused the applications.

Appeal allowed in part.

The court held that the expert would be allowed to give some expert evidence; the expert’s correspondence had made it quite clear that he had no knowledge or expertise relating to the issue of the frequency or nature of incidents involving seat belts being used as a weapon or for self-harm by prisoners. However, he would be able to give evidence on the other issues identified by him as within his expertise.

The court dismissed the appeal to amend the Particulars of Claim. The court stated, inter alia, that to introduce the EU law points would necessitate a considerable factual investigation on the part of the second defendant to determine the vehicle’s history in order to ascertain which regime was in force and applied to it under the applicable EU Directives. This, in turn, would risk pushing back the trial date and the Master had been right to attach importance to this risk. Further, the EU law points could, in principle, have been advanced at the outset of the case.

Nick Armstrong, Hugh Southey QC and Raj Desai were involved in this case.