In a recent landmark case, TUI vs Griffiths, the Supreme Court delivered a ruling that could reshape the dynamics of civil litigation, particularly in low-value holiday sickness claims. The focal point of the case was the treatment of expert evidence and the necessity for defendants to diligently utilise CPR Part 35 questions in challenging the claimant’s evidence and/or obtaining their own evidence.

The Case Overview

Mr Griffiths experienced stomach cramps and diarrhoea during an all-inclusive holiday in Turkey in 2014. Despite fluctuations in symptoms, he was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and remained symptomatic during the 2019 trial. Griffiths relied on expert evidence from Dr Thomas, a gastroenterologist, and Professor Pennington, a Microbiologist. Notably, the defendant, TUI, opted not to present microbiological evidence and were refused permission for their own gastroenterological evidence, following a relief application.

At the first instance, HHJ Truman criticised the expert for insufficient reasoning on causation and overlooking potential breaches of health and hygiene procedures. The judge ruled that the TUI could forego obtaining its expert evidence and present closing submissions accordingly. The High Court disagreed, leading to a successful appeal by the claimant. The Court of Appeal favoured TUI 2:1, prompting the case’s progression to the Supreme Court, where the claimant ultimately succeeded.

Why is this case important for defendants?

Paragraph 81 of the judgment highlighted TUI’s apprehensions about the potential ramifications for cost-effective resolution in civil litigation, especially concerning low-value claims. The court emphasised that in cases of modest value, defendants might adopt more economical methods to test expert evidence without necessarily obtaining detailed reports or demanding cross-examinations.

The Supreme Court ruling underscores the importance of CPR Part 35 questions for defendants challenging claimants’ expert evidence in lower-value claims. The judgment clarifies that while defendants may not always need their own expert evidence, CPR Part 35 questions are now more critical than ever.

What are the practical implications of this ruling?

The court stressed the need for proportionate resource use in the pursuit and defence of claims. Defendants can pose focused CPR Part 35 questions to challenge specific aspects of expert testimony, providing the expert with an opportunity to explain their evidence without resorting to cross-examination. The ruling suggests that a well-structured and targeted cross-examination need not be lengthy, promoting efficiency in the litigation process.

In summary

In essence, the TUI v Griffiths case serves as a wake-up call for defendants, especially in cases with modest value. While obtaining their own expert evidence may not always be obligatory, meticulous use of CPR Part 35 questions is key, as is giving careful consideration to obtaining your own expert evidence. Failure to raise Part 35 questions may result in the court accepting the claimant’s expert evidence as agreed, emphasising the need for precision in addressing issues during trial.

This ruling underscores the evolving landscape of civil litigation and highlights the ongoing commitment to maintaining fairness, proportionality, and efficiency in legal proceedings.

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Ravinder works with both insurers and self-insured companies, defending a range of claims and providing sound legal advice.

Ravinder has over 17 years’ experience of dealing with claims from straight forward RTA’s to multi-million pound fire damage and brain injury claims. He prides himself on getting the best possible solution for his clients on every claim. Ravinder’s down to earth approach for clients is precise, friendly and commercial.

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Published: 7th December 2023
Area: Litigation & Dispute Resolution

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