Sweet v European Union Insurance Co SA

Facts

The applicant insurance company (E) applied to adjourn a trial date.

The respondent (S) had been the victim of a road traffic accident whilst on holiday in Greece. The former second defendant to the claim (X), who was insured by E, had struck S, a pedestrian, with his car. X claimed that S had lurched into the road whilst holding a beer bottle, and that he was unable to avoid the collision. S was taken to hospital. He was above the Greek legal alcohol limit and diazepam was found in his blood. It was unclear whether the diazepam had been introduced into S's blood while he was in hospital or earlier. E and S were given permission to obtain toxological and accident reconstruction reports from their experts. The experts were to provide joint reports. E's accident reconstruction expert was resident in Greece and did not speak English; therefore, his report would have to be translated. He also wanted to see the toxological reports before preparing his joint report with S's accident reconstruction expert. E's toxological expert claimed that he was busy with other trials and would not be able to produce a joint report in time for the upcoming trial commencing in three weeks' time. E submitted that the trial should be taken out of the list and adjourned, notwithstanding the fact that the accident had occurred five years before, there were three weeks to trial and an adjournment was a last resort remedy. Held It was possible for E's toxological expert to produce an agreed joint report with S's expert a week before the trial window. If several drafts had to be completed before a final draft was agreed then so be it, but it was possible to produce a joint report by the required time. Experts were paid substantial fees for that purpose. E's accident reconstruction expert's inability to speak English would undoubtedly cause difficulties in producing a joint report, but there was sufficient time before the trial window to produce a joint report. Further, it was unclear why an accident reconstruction expert required a toxological expert report to prepare his joint statement. It was possible for him to make broad assumptions as to whether or not S was intoxicated at the time of accident and tailor his range of responses on that basis. Further, upon the Greek accident reconstruction expert's arrival in England, there would be time, if necessary, for the experts to get together. Whilst not ideal it was not impossible for them to do so. Adjourning the trial at the present stage, when the majority of the necessary material was in place, ran the risk of incurring unnecessary costs. Once a trial date had been fixed, in the absence of good reasons such as prejudice to one party, the overriding objective required the date to be held. Accordingly, the trial window would not be vacated. Application refused. Comment An adjournment was refused as there was sufficient time for the applicant's expert witnesses to prepare their joint reports prior to the trial commencing.

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