Arm Injuries Suffered by Holidaymaker on Belgium Bus

Mr and Mrs S booked a coach holiday online, which was a five day break from Folkstone to Bruges, Belgium. At Bruges, the coach stopped just outside the city and they were asked by the coach driver to catch a park and ride bus that would take them into the centre of Bruges. About five minutes into the journey the bus made a stop and the doors in the middle of the bus suddenly opened inward. As they opened in on themselves this trapped Mrs S's arm inside. She suffered a fracture to the Ulna and radius of her right arm. During the course of the case Mrs S sadly passed away from causes unrelated to her injury. Mr S continued the claim on her behalf.

Liability was admitted early on, however, the matter became complex following the issue of proceedings. The claimant issued court proceedings in England relying on the case of FBTO –v- Odenbreit. In that case Articles 9-11 Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 (“Brussels I”) were interpreted to allow an EU resident injured in a road traffic accident in another EU state to bring the claim against the relevant motor insurer in her home court. The defendant park and ride bus was state owned and self-insured. No previous cases dealt with interpretation of Articles 9-11 of Brussels 1 where the defendant was self-insured. The rules were clear where the defendant was insured and where the defendant was uninsured, but how Brussels 1 would be interpreted for a self-insured defendant was unknown. Whilst the claimant was of the view that the articles should be interpreted in the same way as for an insurer, thereby allowing the claimant to bring a case in her home court, the defendants were of the view that they could not fall under the definition of insurer and the matter should therefore be brought in Belgium. The defendants therefore issued an application disputing jurisdiction.

We were determined to challenge the interpretation of the European Directives and with the expert guidance of Counsel Bernard Doherty. the matter appeared before Telford County Court. Before the matter was heard quantum was agreed between the parties leaving the only outstanding issue of jurisdiction. The judgment handed down at a later date dismissed the defendant’s application on the grounds that there had been an agreement between the parties that the matter would be brought in England. From very early on in the case we had corresponded with the Belgian claims handler and indicated that should we need to issue proceedings, the matter would be issued in England. This was not disputed by the defendant until after proceedings were issued more than a year after correspondence first indicated that the English courts had jurisdiction.

This was a complicated case that involved a challenge to the interpretation of the European Directives and a great result for the Claimant as this meant that Mr S is then entitled to claim his costs of the action from the Defendant.