States of Jersey Post v Chartier

JurisdictionJersey
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeBailhache, Bailiff, Smith and Jones, JJ.A.
Judgment Date19 March 2007
Date19 March 2007
COURT OF APPEAL
Bailhache, Bailiff, Smith and Jones, JJ.A.

D.J. Benest for the appellant;

O. Blakeley for the respondent.

Cases cited:

(1) English v. Emery Reimbold & Strick Ltd., [2002] 1 W.L.R. 2409; [2002] 3 All E.R. 385; [2002] EWCA Civ. 605, applied.

(2) Glazebrook v. Housing Cttee., 2002 JLR N [43], referred to.

(3) Planning & Environment Cttee. v. Lesquende Ltd., 2003 JLR 15, referred to.

Legislation construed:

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law 1960 (Revised Edition, ch.04.560), art. 4(1): The relevant terms of this paragraph are set out at para. 30.

Tort—negligence—contributory negligence—calculation of "just and equitable" deduction for claimant's contributory negligence, under Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law 1960, art. 4(1), matter of impression for Royal Court, not mathematical precision—Court of Appeal to be slow to interfere

Courts—Royal Court—judgment—court to make clear findings of fact and reasons for decision—adequacy of reasons depends on individual case—in tort action, may be helpful to consider separately issues of fact, issues of law, how resolved and why, consequent results—if leave to appeal sought for lack of reasons, court to consider adequacy of reasons and if necessary provide more

The respondent brought an action against the appellant in the Royal Court claiming damages for personal injury sustained in the course of his employment.

The respondent had been employed by the appellant as a postman for approximately 18 months when he was asked to make a collection with which he was unfamiliar. One of the items to be collected appeared to be very heavy but, without testing its weight or obtaining assistance, the respondent picked it up and in doing so injured his back. He brought an action against the appellant and another party in the Royal Court claiming damages for negligence and/or breach of duty. He submitted inter alia that the appellant had not provided him with any or sufficient manual handling training.

The Royal Court (Hamon, Commr. and Jurats Bullen and Le Cornu) held that the appellant was liable to the respondent, subject to a deduction of 30% for his contributory negligence in failing to test the weight of the item before lifting it. The parties' medical experts differed in their opinion as to the nature and significance of his injury. Without hearing the respondent's evidence regarding the nature of his injury, the court concluded that his back pain was continuous, preferring the diagnosis of his medical expert. The court's factual conclusions and reasoning were not set out clearly in its judgment.

The appellant gave notice of appeal and was informed that, as the appeal was interlocutory, leave should have been sought from the Royal Court. Leave was subsequently sought and obtained from that court. The appellant appealed against the Royal Court's finding that it was liable to the respondent and the calculation of contributory negligence at 30%, as well as the court's conclusion on the medical evidence.

Held, allowing the appeal in part:

(1) The appellant's appeal against the Royal Court's finding as to the nature of the respondent's injury would be allowed—since it appeared that the court relied on the medical expert's evidence to decide between the competing diagnoses without hearing the respondent's evidence—and this issue would be remitted to a differently-constituted Royal Court. The appeal against the Royal Court's finding on liability would, however, be dismissed ( paras. 42-45).

(2) It could not be said that the Royal Court's finding that the respondent was 30% contributorily negligent was wrong, in the sense that the percentage should have been greater, and the present court would not interfere with its assessment. Article 4(1) of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law 1960 provided that the damages to be awarded to a claimant who suffered injury as a result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of another should be reduced to such an extent as the Royal Court considered "just and equitable" having regard to the claimant's responsibility for his injury. The calculation of the extent of a claimant's contributory negligence was a matter of impression and could not be made with mathematical precision. "Just and equitable" suggested a discretion vested in the Royal Court, with which the present court should be slow to interfere ( paras. 30-31).

(3) The Royal Court had, however, failed to set out its findings of fact clearly or to provide satisfactory reasons for its decision. The adequacy of a court's reasons depended on the particular case and it was not possible to provide a template to be used in every case. In a case such as the present, however, a judge might be assisted by asking the following questions and ensuring that, insofar as they were applicable, they had been answered in his judgment: What are the issues of fact What are the issues of law How has the court resolved the issues of fact and law Why has the court resolved these issues of fact and law in the way it has What results follow and why Answering those questions would inevitably involve recording the main points of the parties' contentions and how the court resolved them, so that they would know why they won or lost. Furthermore, if an application were made to the Royal Court for leave to appeal on the ground of lack of reasons, the judge should consider whether his judgment was defective for lack of reasons. If he concluded that it was, he should remedy it by providing additional reasons, which the Commissioner did not do in the present case ( para. 32; paras. 34-36).

(4) As leave to appeal against the Royal Court's judgment could have been granted by that court as well as the present court, because the appeal was interlocutory, the appellant should initially have sought leave from the lower court ( para. 6).

1 SMITH, J.A., delivering the judgment of the court:

Introduction

This is an appeal against a finding by the Royal Court (Samedi Division) that the appellant, Jersey Post, was liable in damages to the respondent, Mr. Jacques Chartier, in respect of personal injuries sustained in an accident which was alleged to have occurred on May 10th, 2001 in the course of Mr. Chartier's employment by Jersey Post as a postman.

2 Mr. Chartier's case at the trial was that, at the date of the alleged accident, he had been employed by Jersey Post for about 18 months. He had started work at about 6.00 a.m. on the day in question. At about 9.20 a.m. he was asked by a manager to carry out a collection duty. He felt anxious because he had not carried out the collection before and "pressurized" because of time restraints. The collection was from the branch of HSBC Bank International Ltd. at Hill Street, St. Helier. Mr. Chartier told the Royal Court that he walked into the reception area and rang a bell there but no one answered. He noticed a cardboard box on top of a metal trunk. He checked that the box was for collection and took it to the van with which he had been provided by Jersey Post. Mr. Chartier then returned for the trunk. This had handles on both ends. On previous occasions when he had handled trunks they had not been heavy. He bent over to pick up the trunk. He lifted it a few inches or a foot off the ground but it was very heavy. He felt a pain in his lower back and dropped the trunk and stood up. He then squatted down and picked up the trunk again and put it into the van. He took what he had collected to where it was supposed to go and reported the incident. The trunk was put on scales and found to weigh 34 kg. or 75 lbs.

3 Mr. Chartier brought proceedings claiming damages for negligence and/or breach of duty against both Jersey...

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