A man who suffered multiple injuries in a fall has thanked Hudgell Solicitors for taking on his case from another firm and pursuing it through appeal to secure damages.

Ian Sunderland, 72, of Durham, admits he thought his bid to secure compensation for injuries, caused when falling due to a pothole in the road, had come to an end when a judge ruled he should not receive any damages.

However, Hudgell Solicitors, which took over his case from another firm as part of a purchase of personal injury files, still managed to secure a settlement after challenging the ruling and taking the case to appeal.

Hudgell Solicitors is committed to ensuring the files it takes over from other firms are brought to a smooth conclusion for clients, whilst allowing lawyers a way out of an increasingly squeezed personal injury claims market.

Case taken on and pursued for client despite difficult liability issues

Karen Smith, manager of personal injury at Hudgell Solicitors’ Leeds office, said that despite it being a difficult liability case to win, the firm was determined to provide legal representation and secure Mr Sunderland the damages he deserved.

It was alleged as part of his case that the pothole in the road had presented a danger to members of the public and should have been repaired by the local authority.

Ms Smith says bringing the case to a successful conclusion for Mr Sunderland emphasised Hudgell Solicitors’ determination to ‘see the person and not just the claim’ in every case.

She said: “Public liability cases around injuries suffered on uneven pavements and highways can be difficult, but each case needs to be judged on its circumstances.

“In this case, the firm which had opened the file had been passionate about tackling this issue of potholes on local roads, the danger they were causing and it was committed holding the local authority to account on the matter.

“I am sure some solicitors firms may have closed down this file if they had inherited it as part of a sale of cases, and advised Mr Sunderland that they would not be in a position to pursue a case on his behalf.

“That is because it was always finely balanced as to whether it would be won. However, we felt Mr Sunderland had a case, and even though we knew it would be difficult, we were determined to give him the representation he deserved, and therefore retained the case and the barrister who had already been instructed.”

As part of the local authority’s defence, it claimed the road had been satisfactorily classified and inspected accordingly.

However, the case on behalf of Mr Sunderland alleged this road classification had been wrong, that the level of inspection carried out had therefore not been sufficient, and that the authority had been liable for leaving the highway in a dangerous condition when Mr Sunderland was injured, in April 2014.

Ms Smith added: “When the matter went to trial the Court found that the defect had been in existence but ruled in favour of the defendant, which was disappointing.

“We could have ended at that point but we felt this decision was wrong, and despite both ourselves and the barrister we’d employed being exposed to more risk had we not been successful, we decided to appeal.”

Transcript errors found following appeal led to defendants agreeing to compensation

It was after the launch of this appeal that a Judge discovered errors in the transcription from the original court hearing, errors admitted by the original Judge. It was at this stage in November 2017 that the defendants agreed to pay compensation.

Ms Smith added: “Interestingly, at the original court hearing in June 2017, the value the defendants had placed on the claim and agreed at the door should we have won on that day was higher than the figure our client had been willing to settle at.

“Furthermore, as the final settlement was following appeal, the local authority as the defendant was responsible to pay a 10 per cent uplift on damages and indemnity costs for our client. It was a really pleasing result and showed that our legal knowledge, and a commitment to doing the best for all clients, can have a big impact.”

Mr Sunderland said: “I was really pleased with the support Hudgell Solicitors gave me. I had pretty much accepted that the case had been lost after the first court hearing but they were determined to challenge it as they said the council should be held liable under the law.

“I was obviously delighted to get the damages in the end, and the extra money on top. It has helped me buy a new wheelchair, which I now need to get around.”