Millar v Peeples

JurisdictionNorthern Ireland
Judgment Date01 January 1995
Date01 January 1995
CourtCourt of Appeal (Northern Ireland)
(C.A., N.I.)

- Separate trials - Issues of liability and damages - Claim for personal injuries - Trial of issue of liability before trial of issue of damages - Circumstances in which separate trial could be made - Whether just and convenient - Rules of the Supreme Court (Northern Ireland), 1980, O. 33, r. 3.

The plaintiff suffered severe injuries when he was hit by a car while crossing a road adjacent to his school to attend a fete at the school. On that day traffic was busy, and a line of stationary vehicles had built up behind a fire engine (one of the attractions at the fete) which was trying to turn right into the school from the road. The plaintiff sued the first defendant for negligent driving. He also sued the school's parent association as organiser of the fete and the North Eastern Education and Library Board (the board) for negligence in failing to take steps to protect children who might be at risk from traffic in the vicinity of the fete. The board sought the agreement of the plaintiff's solicitors to have the issue of liability tried separately from and in advance of that of damages. Following the plaintiffs refusal to agree the board brought an application under R.S.C. (N.I.), 1980, Ord. 33, r. 3, and the master made an order in their favour. On appeal, the judge reversed the master's decision on the ground, not argued before him or the master, that the medical evidence about the injuries might be able to assist the trial judge in the determination of liability. The board appealed. The plaintiff did not seek to support the judge's decision on the ground given but contended that it would be hard on the plaintiff to require him to give evidence twice and that if the trial was not split there would be a greater incentive on the defendants to settle. Held - The terms of Ord. 33, r. 3 permitted the court to order a split trial in a personal injuries action and, while the normal practice was that liability and damages should be tried together, the courts should be ready to order separate trials wherever it was just and convenient to do so. In weighing up what was just and convenient the court should balance the advantages or disadvantages to each party and take into account the public interest that unnecessary...

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