Here is a case study of one such claim where a tenant was injured due to property disrepair whilst innocently making a cup of tea:
Our client (who for confidentiality reasons we shall call ‘Miss V’) was a tenant at a property owned by the Defendant. An accident occurred when she was boiling a kettle in the kitchen at the property. Suddenly and without any warning the kitchen cupboards fell off the wall, hitting Miss V on her left shoulder. The injuries weren’t severe but they were painful and caused bruising, cuts and muscular problems.
We agreed to take on the case under a No Win – No Fee funding arrangement. A letter of claim was sent to the Landlord and the his letting agents. We alleged fault due to negligence. We also alleged breach of statutory duty by the Landlord under:
1. the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and
2. the Defective Premises Act 1972.
Miss V provided a document from the Environmental Health Department, which clearly showed that the Landlord was on notice that the property was in disrepair prior to the accident. Nevertheless, liability for the accident was denied.
The Landlord’s solicitors advised that the letting agents had stated they did not have any record of the accident occuring. There were two witnesses who initially confirmed their willingness to provide statements on behalf of Miss V. However, due to lack of response, it became clear this would not be an option so we had to take a different approach to the claim.
A witness statement was taken from Miss V and her medical records were obtained. As the Landlord was unwilling to consider an out of court settlement we decided to get court proceedings underway. A Claim Form was lodged at court and the legal claim was issued.
Due to the denial of liability a specialist barrister was instructed to consider liability and evidence and to draft the Particulars of Claim. The barrister shared our view that the claim was a valid one and that the Defendant would be held liable.
A Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon was also instructed to prepare a medical report on Miss V’s injuries.
The Landlord filed his Defence maintaining his denial of liability. Accordingly, Directions Questionnaires had to be prepared for the court action.
We looked at what had caused the shelves to fall down and highlighted a problem regarding damp and water ingress in the kitchen wall and we sought guidance from experts in this field. In order to narrow the legal and factual issues in dispute the Landlord was asked to summarise the exact Defence he would be seeking to rely in view of:
1. the provisions of section 4 of the Defective Premises Act and
2. the agency contract between the Landlord and his letting agent, which clearly stated “the Landlord is responsible for the repair and upkeep of the property”.
In the meantime, Miss V’s witness statement was served on the Landlord and filed with the court, together with the Schedule of Loss in readiness for the Trial.
Fortunately the Landlord saw sense at the 11th hour and made a Part 36 Offer to settle Miss V’s claim.
Miss V decided to accept the offer and the case was therefore concluded without the need for an expensive trial.
This case highlights the fact that even when there is a denial of liability from a Landlord and the case looks destined for trial a claim can still be settled on a positive note with the Claimant receiving adequate compensation.
It’s a pity that the Landlord in this case didn’t make his offer at an earlier stage. By delaying as he did he caused significant legal costs to be incurred which turned out to be quite unnecessary. Regrettably this approach is all too common, especially among insurance companies who seem to think that if they defend a case the claimant will simply give up and go away. It is therefore important for claimants to choose their legal representative carefully and appoint a lawyer who is prepared to fight all the way to trial if necessary.