Kevin O'Hagan

CPD Session Warm Up Part 1: Public Sector / Utility Successes

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Ahead of McKinty and Wright’s annual CPD Session on 30th June 2017, Kevin discusses recent cases / points of interest for those dealing with claims litigation in Northern Ireland. The first part of the series focuses on recent wins at trial, both defending and prosecuting for a Public Sector / Utility client: -

Personal Injury/Casualty PL claim: Dismissal of Plaintiff’s allegations secured at trial, building on our 75% dismissal/indemnity rate for the client: -

Allegations

The Plaintiff alleged an ankle injury as a result of stepping onto a defective fire hydrant on the public road. The Co Defendant alleged that our client had conducted works at the location six months prior to the incident, which was the cause of any defect.

Investigations

Our investigations revealed issues around potential fraud, exaggeration and credibility for the Plaintiff and contractual indemnity for the Co Defendant. A detailed review of documentation relating to previous repairs identified that co-ordinates for the alleged defective hydrant, when compared to the repair record, did not match. Documentation was gathered to support a Roads Order (NI) 1993 Article 8 defence, based on a proper system of inspection and repair.

On reviewing our findings and recommendations, the client took the decision to proceed to contest the claim on both liability and quantum.

At Hearing

The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim stating that, despite witness testimony given by the Plaintiff and a relative, it could not accept that the defect existed for any length of time, nor could the Court rely upon her evidence as credible.

Learning from this Result

The knowledge of our client’s systems, practices and procedures was key to securing the withdrawal of the Co Defendant’s liability points against our client. This allowed both Defendants to focus on the Plaintiff’s credibility and the Statutory defence available. The Plaintiff found it difficult to answer questions in cross examination relating to when the defect arose and indeed her own movements prior to the incident, which did not impress the Court, either in terms of credibility or recall. In fact, we were able to undermine the Plaintiff’s case and to use evidence from the Co Defendant in support to such an extent that none of our client’s employees needed to provide witness testimony.

Successful Prosecutions, Water and Sewerage Services (NI) Order 2006

Public Sector bodies often face an uphill struggle against budget cuts and cuts to investment in infrastructure, with those providing utility services also suffering losses associated with criminal connections to their assets for the avoidance of commercial charges. Such activity is unfortunately prevalent in our jurisdiction.

To combat this criminality McKinty and Wright work closely with Northern Ireland Water, assisting in bringing prosecutions under statutory powers to Court. This often involves the gathering of physical and witness evidence, the drafting of charges, as well as advocacy at Court.

Northern Ireland Water were successful in prosecuting two offences under the Water and Sewerage Services (NI) Order 2006, of connecting to a public water main without consent and tampering with a water meter. The sentence directed by the Court included both an £800 fine, and a Compensation Order of over £12,000.00, as well as legal costs -  a harsh deterrent against future offending.

For more information, contact Kevin

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