When a court case involves a plaintiff and a defendant who know each other, matters of friendship often get put on the back foot if money's involved. This was demonstrated in a recent case brought before the NSW District Court.
Background of the case
On 20 November 2012, the appellant was involved in a car accident when she negligently turned her vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic contrary to a 'No Right Turn' sign, thus colliding into another car. The respondent claimed damages against the appellant for injuries he had sustained as a passenger in her car. Whether the appellant had breached her duty of care was never a matter of contention during the hearing. Instead, she denied that the respondent was ever in her car and that he had brought forward a misleading claim.
During the trial, both parties brought forward evidence for their claims, that he was and wasn't in the vehicle at the time of the crash. After evaluating all evidence, the primary judge found that the respondent had established he was in the car at the time of the accident – despite publicising suspicions that he may not have. The respondent was awarded $9577.75 in damages.
However, the appellant was granted leave to appeal on the basis that the primary judge erred in failing to find that the respondent's claim for damages was fraudulent.
The appeal to leave
In the second hearing, the court once again reviewed the evidence from the respondent and two witnesses who were also in the appellant's car at the time of the accident – both of whom confirmed the respondent was in the vehicle.
The medical evidence provided a degree of support for the respondent having suffered injuries consistent with the collision.
The court then turned its attention to the driver and passenger of the other vehicle, who both claimed to have perfectly clear views into the vehicle and only saw three ladies, asserting that no man was in the car.
When reviewing the evidence given by both passengers of the appellant's car, the court found various inconsistencies and improbabilities. This included the colour of the car, which emergency services were at the scene and the distance of the crash.
The court concluded that the primary judge failed to properly assess all evidence, especially that submitted by witnesses and passengers. With that, the appeal was allowed and the court ruled in favour of the appellant. The respondent was ordered to pay the costs of appeal.
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