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A recent case illustrates the importance of making sure that all the evidence which it is intended to rely on in legal proceedings is put before the court and made available to the other side in good time for them to evaluate it and prepare their response.
The case dealt with an issue lawyers call ‘proximate cause’, which is an important concept in the law relating to claims for damages.
When there is more than one possible cause of damage, the court must decide which of these is the proximate cause – i.e. the immediately responsible cause of the damage. This is done by weighing up the likely probability of each potential cause of the damage.
When the less probable causes have been identified, the most probable cause is considered to be the proximate cause.
This distinction becomes especially important when different risks are covered by policies issued by different insurers, as was the case here.
The case concerned pipes which were to be used in the construction of a waste disposal plant. These were discovered to have been damaged. They had been manufactured in Romania and shipped to the UK. It was unclear whether they had been damaged in transit or on site in the UK and different insurers covered each possibility.
The court found that it was more likely that the pipes had been damaged in transit as a result of inadequate packing and thus that was the proximate cause. It refused to consider evidence introduced towards the end of the original trial, which lasted seven days, that purported to demonstrate the adequacy of the packing of the pipes when transported, making damage in transit unlikely. This was brought before the court too late for proper consideration to be given to it by the other side.
The insurer that stood to bear the loss appealed to the Court of Appeal, which gave the appeal short shrift, LJ Moses going so far as to comment, “I wish to underline the audacity, if not effrontery, with which the appellants have advanced this appeal.” In the Court’s view, the finding that the loss occurred in transit could not be criticised on the basis of the evidence available to the judge.
When conducting a legal dispute, it is important to collect and marshal your evidence promptly to ensure that your case can be argued as forcibly as possible. We can guide you to ensure your case is presented to give the best chance of success.