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19 July 2007 - PI Practitioner

Steadman-Byrne v. Amjad [2007] EWCA Civ 625
At first instance, the judge was to decide a point on which the evidence was disputed. The claimants had given evidence, and the defendant was to give contradictory evidence. After the claimants’ evidence, the judge summoned counsel to his chambers. The judge there stated that he did not see how the defendant could win the point, and that he believed the claimants’ evidence. The judge went on to hear the defendant’s evidence and give judgment in favour of the claimants.
Appeal against that order allowed. The test of bias was whether a fair-minded observer informed of all the relevant circumstances would have concluded that there was a real possibility that the judge was biased. Although a judge could form views about the evidence as the trial went on, and could tell the parties about those views, it was not acceptable for him to form, or give the impression of having formed, a firm view on one side’s credibility when the other had not yet called evidence meant to impute it. As the judge had given a clear indication that he had prematurely closed his mind, he had given the appearance of bias.
Farley v. Buckley [2007] EWCA Civ 403

The claimant was overtaking a lorry on a major road. The lorry was turning left into a side-road, from which the defendant was emerging at 5 to 8 mph, without edging forward bit by bit, that is, ’nose-poking.’ The claimant was found to have been driving at 30 mph, and the trial judge described the manoeuvre as reckless. The judge dismissed the claim.
Claimant’s appeal dismissed. In the instant case, it could not be said that the defendant was negligent for failing to ’nose-poke,’ given the short space between the offside of the truck and the centre of the road. The difference between continuous movement and nose-poking was too slight to justify a finding of negligence on the basis that the defendant had failed to ’nose-poke.’ However, the Court of Appeal would not endorse a general rule that there was no negligence in failing to ’nose-poke,’ and that emerging from a minor road at 5 to 8 mph was acceptable.

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