Bruce Silvester represented the Claimant in SM v DHL Supply Chain UK Ltd

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18/04/2021

SM v DHL Supply Chain UK Ltd – successful liability trial – April 2021

Bruce Silvester represented the Claimant in the liability trial before HHJ Wall in Birmingham, instructed by Irwin Mitchell (Stephen Nye, Partner). The trial was ‘in person’ not remote. Only 8 people allowed in court (so witnesses remained outside until called) with social distancing and masks, except once the Judge, counsel, solicitors and the witness were all seated.

The Claimant, HGV driver, suffered a traumatic brain injury following a fall 4 ft to the ground from the rear of a lorry as he reached up to pull the shutter door down after the last two pallets had been loaded. The Claim alleged 1. Defective Safe Systems of Work; 2. Inadequate training. Post-Enterprise Act accident so common law negligence only. Reliance on Walsh v CP Hart & Sons [2020] EWHC 37 (QB) for importance of competent Safe Systems of Work and Risk Assessments as well as the importance of the tail lift being raised when working close to the edge at the rear of the trailer. Liability denied.

The Judge found that although there were defects in the SSofW these were not so serious as to amount to a breach of Duty. However, she found that there ought to have been a practical element to the training (which would not have been difficult as the Defendant’s lorries were in the yard just outside the room where the SSofW were signed), the trainer should have been present and not absented himself during the time that the Claimant was going through and signing the SSofW, and he should have emphasised the importance of the SSofW which required the tail lift to be raised before closing the shutter door; and that if the Claimant had received that instruction he would have followed it. Therefore, there was a breach of duty, causation was made out and liability was established. However, because the Claimant was an experienced HGV driver and should have recognised the risk in stretching up to reach the strap to pull the shutter door down without having the tail lift raised, in case he slipped, there was contributory negligence, which the Judge assessed at 60%.

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Bruce Silvester

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