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Gerard McDermott QC and Ben Bradley ‘Keep Causation Simple’ in Preliminary Issue Trial

Gerard McDermott QC and Ben Bradley (instructed by Daniel Herman, Stewarts Law LLP, Leeds) successfully represented the claimant in a 2 day preliminary issue trial pertaining to the causation of a stroke following an RTA.

Mr Young, a 77 year old man, was seriously injured following a head on collision whilst driving back from a funeral. As a consequence of the accident, he went on to suffer a heart attack and then, subsequently, a spinal haematoma which rendered him paraplegic.

22 days after the initial accident (and 18 days after the heart attack), Mr Young suffered a non-haemorrhagic stroke, causing left side paralysis. The issue in the preliminary trial related to whether the stroke had been caused by the road traffic accident (it being accepted by the expert cardiologists that the heart attack had been caused by the road traffic accident).

The expert cardiologists and neurologists agreed that there were four possible causes of the stroke.  The defendant sought to aver that in circumstances where the claimant was unable to establish which of these hypotheses was the cause of the stroke on a balance of probabilities, his claim necessarily fails. The defendant relied on the authority of Wilsher v Essex AHA. The Claimant averred that causation could be made out on a simple analysis of the expert evidence (which save for the evidence of one expert) pointed to the RTA as being the cause of the stroke.

The trial judge was prepared to determine the issues based upon the expert evidence before him. In these circumstances, relying upon Alphacell v Woodward, the judge noted that many questions of causation are “…essentially a practical question of fact which can best be answered by ordinary common sense rather than abstract, metaphysical theory”.

Judgment was entered in favour of Mr Young on the preliminary issue accordingly.

The case is an important reminder to practitioners to make sure that they keep common sense and a pragmatic approach to the forefront when considering what may appear to be complex causation arguments.  It is also a reminder to listen to the expert evidence, and to think carefully before running what may be unnecessary arguments on the complexities of causation as analysed by lawyers.

Case Reference: Young v Christian Von Der Schulenburg & AIG Europe Limited.

Judgement available on the Bailii website.

News 24 Aug, 2015


Gerard McDermott KC

Call: 1978 Silk: 1999

Ben Bradley

Call: 2007

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