The Court of Appeal has today handed down its much anticipated judgment in Wall -v- Mutuelle De Poitiers Assurances, dismissing the Defendant’s appeal and upholding the first instance decision of Tugendhat J, that the issue of which expert evidence the court should order, being an issue of evidence and procedure, falls to be determined by reference to the law of the forum (that is, by reference to English Law).
The Claimant, Mr. Wall, a UK citizen, sustained a constellation of injuries, including a permanent spinal cord injury, in a road traffic accident while on holiday in France.
Liability is not in issue, judgment has been entered and it has been agreed by the parties that, by virtue of the “Rome II” Regulation, French law applies to the assessment of damages.
In order to prove the long-term consequences of his disabling injuries, Mr. Wall sought to rely on expert evidence from a wide range of expert witnesses, as is common place in an English case, where catastrophic injuries have been sustained.
The Defendant French insurer argued that Mr. Wall should be restricted to the expert evidence which would usually be placed before a French Court (usually just a single agreed (or court appointed) expert or pair of experts who then incorporate into their report any necessary expertise from other experts or “sapiteurs”), so that, so far as possible, the English Court would be informed by French practice in the assessment of damages.
In giving judgment for Mr Wall, Lord Justice Longmore explained, “An English court is ill-equipped to receive expert evidence given in the French manner…… In these circumstances it is indeed inevitable that the same facts tried in different countries may result in different outcomes and I am unable to accept Mr Browne’s [Counsel for the Defendant] starting point that the English court must strive to reach the same result as a French court would, let alone his finishing point that evidence must be given to the English court in the form of a French-style expert report”.
Scott Rigby, Partner in Stewarts’ International Injury team, who represents Mr. Wall, commented that, “this sensible decision confirms that not only victims of motor accidents in Europe, like Mr. Wall, have the right to bring their claim in their home country, but that those claims will then be subject to English rules of evidence and procedure. English rules permit seriously injured claimants to advance much more detailed evidence than is allowed in most other European jurisdictions, affording them the opportunity to establish the full extent of their life-time losses”.
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