Judges are experts at uncovering the truth but, in rare cases, it is simply not possible to decisively establish the cause of an accident. That was so in the case of an HGV driver who had no memory of an incident which left him with life-changing head injuries.
The man had been cleaning his tractor unit before he was found unconscious in the yard of the crane hire company he worked for. Due to the severity of his head injuries, he had no recollection of how he suffered two blows with a hard, flat, blunt object. The hard hat that he had been wearing was found lying undamaged nearby and a CCTV camera that might have recorded what happened was not working.
A personal injury claim was launched against the company on the basis that he had been struck by a hook block, weighing about three quarters of a tonne, that was attached to a nearby crane. In denying liability, however, the company pointed out that no witness had seen the crane move. A non-forensic examination of the hook block did not reveal any disturbance of a layer of dust and dirt that had accumulated on its surface.
In dismissing the man’s claim, a judge declared herself unable to reach a conclusion as to the probable cause of his injuries. One possible alternative explanation was that he had been assaulted with a weapon. Whilst making no firm finding that such an attack occurred, she concluded that the burden of proving that the hook block moved and caused the man’s injuries had not been discharged.
In rejecting his challenge to that outcome, the High Court acknowledged the serious consequences of his injuries. The judge’s reasoning was, however, sound and there was no flaw in her consideration of the evidence.