Court of Appeal case: Gentry v Miller & UKI  EWCA Civ 141Matthew Smith
This Claim concerns an alleged road traffic accident on 17th March 2013 when UKI’s insured, Mr Miller, is alleged to have negligently driven into Mr Gentry causing him personal injuries and losses. UKI received no co-operation from Mr Miller, but in February 2014 discovered that he knows Mr Gentry. This then formed the basis of an allegation of a fraudulent collusion and the desire for UKI to put and argue this allegation of fraud at Trial.
However, before they could do this they had to set judgments aside as on 17th October 2013 Mr Gentry obtained judgment for £75 089 together with costs of £12,945 following judgment in default at a disposal hearing where only his representatives (Messrs Armstrongs) attended.
Court of Appeal
Last week the Court of Appeal handed down their unanimous decision to the effect that the decisions of the Judges below, DJ Henthorn and HHJ Gregory, should be overturned meaning that the original default judgment and disposal judgment should stand.
The driving force behind the decision was delay. The leading judgment from Vos LJ considered the 3-stage test of Denton and found as follows:
- There had been a serious and significant breach. This was conceded on Appeal.
- There was little explanation. This does not seem to have been argued with much force on Appeal, save for the contention that the fault lay at the door of the insured rather than the insurer for a large part of the delay.
- All the circumstances dictated finality in litigation and compliance. This was the deciding factor and the Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that whichever way the delay was analysed (either 7 months of 2 months depending on the start date), the application was not prompt. In particular, the Court of Appeal were persuaded by the fact that UKI knew of the case at an early stage, admitted liability, made payments and could and should have done more to investigate the claim before they did, namely February 2014, after an admission almost 1 year earlier in April 2013.