Case Comment: Fallows v Harkers Transport (Royal and Sun Alliance, vehicle insurance)

Mr Fal­lows’ car was dam­aged by a vehicle owned by the defend­ants. Liab­il­ity was not an issue. Mr. Fal­lows’ vehicle was insured by Roy­al and Sun Alli­ance, who sought to recov­er their costs from the defendant’s insurers. The costs were £1825.53. Not a large sum. How­ever, the defend­ants objec­ted.

The reas­on for the objec­tion was that Roy­al and Sun Alli­ance arranged repair via a wholly-owned sub­si­di­ary, which then con­trac­ted with a sub­con­tract­or, who actu­ally repaired the vehicle. The sub­con­tract­or billed the sub­si­di­ary the sum of £1542.78. The sub­si­di­ary added on fur­ther costs, and billed Roy­al and Sun Alli­ance.

In Rom­ford County Court, the defend­ants ques­tioned the sum claimed. It was held that, giv­en the duty to mit­ig­ate, the best evid­ence of reas­on­able cost of repairs was that which RSA’s sub­si­di­ary nego­ti­ated with the sub­con­tract­or. There was no evid­ence that RSA itself could only nego­ti­ate a high­er price. While admin­is­tra­tion costs have been allowed by the courts in the past, there are no decisions allow­ing them to a sub­rog­ated insurer, let alone a sub­rog­ated insurer’s sub­sid­ary. And in coun­ter­bal­ance, there are decisions where admin­is­tra­tion costs have been dis­al­lowed.

The Judge (Platt J) said:

Since RSAARL is wholly owned by RSA the effect of these extra charges if they are paid by defend­ants is simply to boost RSA Group’s profits bey­ond the actu­al cost of repair by the mar­gins inser­ted by RSAARL. I can find no basis in law for say­ing that this is a course of action which a claimant insurer is entitled to take [..]. On the evid­ence the defend­ant has clearly estab­lished a fail­ure to mit­ig­ate on the part of the claimant.

Now that this judg­ment is pub­lic, the util­ity of this busi­ness arrange­ment to RSA is prob­ably moot. Oth­er insurers could use the same mod­el. This how­ever was found to be likely to lead to an increase in costs to the insured mem­bers of the pub­lic of some 25%.

RSA were held liable in costs to the defend­ant — exceed­ingly unusu­al in a small claim. Even though they were the claimant, they almost com­pletely failed to com­ply with pre–action pro­tocol and with the court–ordered dis­cov­ery pro­cess. For example, the exist­ence of a form­al invoice from the repairer to RSA’s sub­si­di­ary was not dis­closed, even once its exist­ence had become appar­ent dur­ing the tri­al.

Per­mis­sion was giv­en to appeal.

Judg­ment in the case can be found on BAILII at Fal­lows v. Hark­ers Trans­port (A Firm) [2011] EW Misc 16.

Your data in the Cloud is not secure from the US Government

Data stor­age in the cloud is clearly the where things are mov­ing just now. Giv­en the pleth­ora of devices people have — com­puters at home, laptops and tab­lets on the move, smart­phones in the pock­et, it makes per­fect sense for all of a person’s devices to use a single, com­mon repos­it­ory for shared inform­a­tion. Ser­vices such as Apple’s forth­com­ing iCloud at the domest­ic level, and commonly–used ser­vices such as Google’s Google Apps, and Microsoft’s Office 365 all store your data in their own clouds.

You’d think that this would be done with respect to Data Pro­tec­tion laws. Wrong. If the USA wants your data, the USA gets it. My friends Simon Bis­son and Mary Branscombe have the details: regard­less of European pri­vacy dir­ect­ives and the UK Data pro­tec­tion act, the US see the PATRIOT act over­rid­ing these for US com­pan­ies and EU sub­si­di­ar­ies of US com­pan­ies:

That means that US gov­ern­ment can (under the aus­pices of the act) request the data of any indi­vidu­al or com­pany that’s using US-owned or hos­ted ser­vices, no mat­ter where that data is actu­ally being held. It doesn’t mat­ter if you’ve geo-locked your data, and it only resides in European data centres, it can still be requisi­tioned and taken to the US. Yes, it’s an issue of nation­al secur­ity, but when res­ults can be found by machine learn­ing and trawl­ing massive data sets (the lar­ger the bet­ter), there’s a tempta­tion for gov­ern­ments to take all they can and more.

Undoubtedly this will lead to much hand–wringing in the EU Par­lia­ment. How­ever, what can be done? It is unlikely that the USA will give up their powers.

There­fore, the only solu­tion is in the hands of indi­vidu­als and com­pan­ies wish­ing to use cloud ser­vices — only use cloud ser­vices from wholly–EU–owned com­pan­ies host­ing your data inside the EU. While the leg­al pro­tec­tions you will have in those cir­cum­stances are not huge, they are bet­ter than none at all.

Oh — an after­thought. How happy do you now feel, if per­haps you have just giv­en a whole heap of your per­son­al inform­a­tion to Google, dur­ing the Google Plus sign–up pro­cess?

BAILII needs help

My road toward the law has been long and not dir­ect — but one web site in par­tic­u­lar kept my interest when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Giv­en my sci­ence back­ground and near–obsessive need for inform­a­tion, you may not be sur­prised that the site is BAILII.

BAILII is a data­base of case law. It con­tains recent decisions for the full range of courts and tribunals across the UK, his­tor­ic decisions, and decisions from oth­er jur­is­dic­tions. It is free to access, and the best way in the UK for the lay per­son to access case law, giv­ing the abil­ity to inform them­selves about things like leg­al mat­ters in the press, but more import­antly giv­ing the abil­ity to research and arm them­selves in situ­ations where there can be little oth­er help — a dis­pute with a pub­lic body, or an employ­er, for example.

Run­ning BAILII is nat­ur­ally not free. While a num­ber of firms have made com­mit­ments to fund­ing, more is required to guar­an­tee the con­tinu­ing sur­viv­al of what, to me, is an essen­tial ser­vice. Frankly, I think it should be a publicly–funded ser­vice, but that is not likely in this day and age.

If, like me, you believe this ser­vice should con­tin­ue, please con­sider donat­ing to BAILII. It is a char­ity, dona­tions are man­aged via the Char­it­ies Aid Found­a­tion, and are gift-aidable (please do that if you can, it means an extra 25% to them).

News from the Florida Justice System

A man who killed two Brit­ish tour­ists in Flor­ida will not go to jail — even though he fled the scene and lied to the police. Ryan LeV­in paid an undis­closed amount to the wid­ows of those he killed, and will serve two years house arrest.

The offences’ sen­ten­cing guidelines call for up for 45 years’ impris­on­ment.

His law­yer was the Judge’s deputy cam­paign treas­urer.

For all people com­plain about the UK justice sys­tem, I’m glad that it’s pretty much as it is.

Alex Salmond’s criticism of the UK Supreme Court is grandstanding

So, Mr. Sal­mond would like to see the remov­al of the Supreme Court’s power to decide Human Rights issues with regard to the Scot­tish crim­in­al justice sys­tem. Moreover, he has chosen to per­son­al­ise the issue by attack­ing Lord Hope, the deputy pres­id­ent of the Supreme Court, and pre­vi­ously lord justice gen­er­al of Scot­land. The situ­ation has become so far­cic­al that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, led by the SNP, are look­ing at remov­ing fund­ing for the Supreme Court.

Loads of heat and noise there, against a tar­get that, to retain its impar­ti­al­ity, does not involve itself in polit­ics. It’s easy to shoot at some­thing that won’t shoot back, isn’t it?

Any­way, the changes the SNP are pro­pos­ing will not mean that decisions of the Scot­tish crim­in­al courts will not be prone to any review — it will mean that, as before the intro­duc­tion of the Scot­land Act and the Human Rights Act, Human Rights chal­lenges to it will have to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Stras­bourg rather to the UK Supreme Court. This will of course mean con­sid­er­able delay com­pared to now. And on the European Court of Human Rights there are pre­cisely no judges with extens­ive under­stand­ing of the Scot­tish crim­in­al justice sys­tem. On the UK Supreme Court, there are two — Lord Hope and Lord Rodger, who is unfor­tu­nately ill at the moment.

What Alex Sal­mond is doing is trans­par­ent — and it has noth­ing at all to do with the qual­ity of justice in Scot­land, or the rest of the UK. Sal­mond, as lead­er of the Scot­tish Nation­al Party, has just won a major­ity in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment. His party are com­mit­ted to a ref­er­en­dum on wheth­er Scot­land should be inde­pend­ent or not in the lat­ter half of this par­lia­ment­ary ses­sion. It is there­fore to his advant­age to cri­ti­cise decisions made by oth­ers that affect Scot­land — it’s the old “them and us” ploy. While Mr Sal­mond has always had a tend­ency to play the “poor down­trod­den Scots” card at every oppor­tun­ity, to per­son­al­ise the attack against the Scot who, with the oth­er mem­bers of the Supreme Court, is the last bas­tion against Human Rights-based mis­car­riages of crim­in­al justice in Scot­land, is rep­re­hens­ible.

What we should really be ques­tion­ing here is the decisions of the High Court of Jus­ti­ci­ary in Edin­burgh. In both their judg­ment in Fraser and HMA v McLean (the fore­run­ner to Cad­der) — the lat­ter with a bench of no less than sev­en justices — they have got a point of Human Rights law wrong. What is caus­ing this dif­fi­culty in cor­rectly ana­lys­ing wheth­er aspects of the Scot­tish crim­in­al justice sys­tem is com­pli­ant with the Con­ven­tion on Human Rights?