Perthshire man granted absolvitor in back road car accident damages case 



Sheriff Court
Sheriff Court

A sheriff in Perth has absolved a man of any wrongdoing in a car accident that took place on a back road near Blackford in the Perth and Kinross area. 

The pursuer, ER, claimed the defender CD had struck her car while travelling at excessive speed around a bend, and sought damages. The defender sought to sanction the employment of junior counsel for the entire proceedings due to the anxiety induced by proceedings. 

The case was heard in Perth Sheriff Court by Sheriff Gillian Wade

Single track road 

The accident occurred while the pursuer was driving along a single track road from Blackford to Braco. Weather conditions were described as wet and gloomy. The road was wide enough for two vehicles proceeding with reasonable care, but also had passing places. 

The pursuer was travelling at about 15 miles per hour when she collided with the defender’s car while negotiating a bend in the road. The defender, who was travelling with his partner and his step son, approached the bend at around 20mph and pulled his vehicle as close to the left verge as possible and stopped when he saw the pursuer’s car. 

It was the position of the pursuer that the defender had been travelling at excessive speed around the bend, and this was the main cause of the collision. According to the pursuer, she pulled to the left into a passing place on the bend but was dragged about 50 yards from the point of impact by the defender’s vehicle, which then drove a further 50 yards before stopping.  

This version of events was called into question by photographic evidence from the defender’s partner which showed the pursuer’s vehicle in the centre of the road. Nevertheless, it was submitted for the pursuer that her version of events should be preferred as it was clear, credible, and reliable. On the other side, it was submitted for the defender that the evidence did not support the pursuer overall. 

The defender sought sanction for the employment of junior counsel in the case. It was conceded that the case was neither complex nor novel, but he involved counsel due to his anxiety and the pursuer not being willing to engage with his defence. Further, his stepson was exhibiting signs of travel anxiety following the collision, which was heightening tension between the defender and those involved in the handling of the case. 

Account not reliable 

In her decision, Sheriff Wade began by assessing the facts, saying: “On the balance of probabilities the accident was caused by the pursuer’s failure to keep far enough to the left or to use the passing place on the bend when passing the defender’s stationary vehicle.” 

On the credibility of the pursuer as a witness, she said: “The pursuer’s account is not reliable. I would accept the submission of the defender that she was not deliberately trying to mislead the court by lying but her account of being dragged back a considerable distance before the defender drove further down the road is simply not credible when faced with the photographic evidence.” 

Contrasting the pursuer’s evidence with the defender’s, she said: “For the avoidance of doubt I do accept that the defender’s evidence was credible and reliable. Even if the pursuer had been successful in having the record amended to include a case of driving at excessive speed I would have rejected that case as a matter of fact. I have made a specific findings in fact that the defender was, as he stated, stationary at the point of impact. I have also found in fact that the defender had pulled his vehicle as far as possible into the left hand verge and had done all he could to avoid the collision.” 

Turning to the issue of employing junior counsel, Sheriff Wade added: “While it was argued, and is indeed accepted, that all cases are of importance to the individual litigants it did seem to me that the defender in this case was requiring additional support and management which can often best be achieved by the independence of counsel. It seemed to me on the basis of submissions that there were peculiarities related to the client’s anxiety which brought the case into the category where, for management reasons, the employment of counsel could be deemed reasonable.” 

She continued: “[The defender’s] pleas were met with a stone wall refusal to expand thus, one must assume contributing to the ongoing concerns of the defender. Accordingly, in my view despite the best efforts of counsel to manage the situation effectively, the conduct of the pursuer’s agents contributed to the difficulties the defender was experiencing and gave further good reason for counsel to remain involved.” 

For these reasons, Sheriff Wade granted decree of absolvitor in favour of the defender. 

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2020



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