The Weekly Roundup: The Getting It Wrong Edition

Published date06 July 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Trials & Appeals & Compensation, Personal Injury
Law Firm1 Chancery Lane
AuthorAnirudh Mandagere

This week we look at two cases in which slip-ups in procedure had Consequences for unfortunate lawyers. Not the kind of thing that happens to our readers, of course, but still, it's always best to be aware of these things. We're delighted to be joined once again by a colleague from 9 Gough Chambers, this time Linda Nelson, who is well known to all those practicing in the Admiralty Court in particular, but also in general cross border work.

Personal Injury Claims Wrongly Issued in the County Court

Many of us have encountered an Admiralty claim issued in a County Court rather than in the Admiralty Court. A degree of uncertainty has reigned over the question of how such a scenario should be addressed and a recent decision provides some welcome guidance on the matter.

Where personal injury is suffered on a ship it is likely to fall within the broad scope of section 20(2)(f) of the Senior Courts Act 1981. S20 SCA defines the parameters of the Admiralty Court's jurisdiction and s20(2)(f) provides that the Admiralty Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine:

'any claim for loss of life or personal injury sustained in consequence of any defect in a ship or in her apparel or equipment, or in consequence of the wrongful act, neglect or default of -

(i) the owners, charterers or persons in possession or control of a ship; or

(ii) the master or crew of a ship, or any other person for whose wrongful acts, neglects or defaults the owners, charterers or persons in possession or control of a ship are responsible,

being an act, neglect or default in the navigation or management of a ship, in the loading, carriage or discharge of goods on, or from the ship, or in the embarkation, carriage or disembarkation of persons on, in or from the ship.'

This widely-drawn provision therefore encompasses everything from accidents befalling employees on ships to passengers injured on cruise ships, including slips and trips and gastric illness cases. It is of course rare for cases in the latter category to require any specialist Admiralty knowledge or expertise and one wonders if, at the time of drafting, it was fully appreciated that the section would scoop up such claims.

Whilst section 20 grants the Admiralty Court jurisdiction over such claims, it doesn't provide that the Admiralty jurisdiction is exclusive, nor does it oust the jurisdiction of the County Court. The County Court has a general jurisdiction to hear any action founded on contract or tort (s15 County Courts Act 1984) and claims made under statute (s16 CCA). It is CPR 61.2(1) that introduces the exclusivity of the Admiralty Court's jurisdiction.

CPR 61.2(1) sets out an exhaustive list of the categories of claims which must be started in the Admiralty Court. The list includes collision claims, limitation claims, salvage claims and claims in rem; as well as claims for damage done by a ship; concerning the ownership of a ship; under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995; by a master or member of a crew for wages; in the nature of towage and in the nature of pilotage. Such cases clearly benefit from being heard in the Admiralty Court. The list also includes claims 'for loss of life or personal injury specified in section 20(2)(f) of the Senior Courts Act 1981' - it is this provision that precludes such claims being issued in the County Court, even if that court is the most appropriate forum (whether by...

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