Credit hire: CPR changes to affect credit hire pleadings and witness statements
The High Court has recently dismissed an appeal alleging that a Recorder in the County Court should have disregarded basic hire rate (BHR) evidence submitted by the Defendant. Handing down judgment in Bunting v Zurich Insurance Plc , Mr Justice Pepperall found that the Claimant’s challenges to the BHR rate were ‘nit-picking’.
The decision offers further confirmation that a common sense approach should be used by the courts when stripping out the irrecoverable benefits of a claimed credit hire rate, in order to reach an appropriate basic hire rate.
These findings also make clear that claimant efforts to be hypercritical of BHR evidence will not be accepted as justification for a substantive challenge to BHR evidence.
The judgment further builds upon that of McBride v UKI (with which the writer was involved) and reinforces the need for a "common sense" approach to what remains a theoretical exercise. Hopefully "fanciful" challenges to Defendant's rates evidence will decrease following this further clarification.
The Claimant had hired an equivalent class of vehicle from Helphire for a period of 84 days following a non-fault accident. The hire charges totalled £28,551.84. The Claimant was debarred from asserting impecuniosity.
The Defendant served a witness statement from an employee of Whichrate setting out alternative rates from BHR providers, including a 7 day rate from Thrifty (the lowest rate).
At trial, the witness gave oral evidence reinforcing the points in his statement, having unusually been summonsed by the Claimant to give evidence. Although the Recorder concluded that the Claimant had made some good points about the usefulness of the witness evidence, he disregarded their objections, using the 7 day Thrifty rate as the basis of the amount awarded.
The Recorder also made an uplift of £10 per week to reflect a lack of details of any deposit payable, mileage limit, and that the Thrifty rate was limited to a 30 days maximum hire rate. The Claimant recovered £3,989.14, a significant reduction of the amount claimed and also far below the Defendant’s Part 36 offer.
The Claimant appealed, arguing that the Defendant’s BHR evidence should have been disregarded for the following reasons:
The appeal was dismissed by Mr Justice Pepperall.
He found that:
The Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs of the appeal.
What can we learn?