Suffered Loss Due to Official Incompetence? See a Lawyer Today!
Judges are always alert to ensure that people who suffer loss due to official blunders are properly compensated. One case exactly on point concerned a businessman who claimed to have lost an entire year’s income – more than £127,000 – after his travel documents were lost in the post.
In applying for a driving licence, the education consultant had sent the documents to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). As requested, he enclosed a stamped and addressed special delivery envelope so they could be returned to him safely. However, the DVLA sent them back by first class post and he never received them.
He launched proceedings against the Department for Transport (DfT), which bears legal responsibility for the DVLA, claiming that his resulting inability to travel for an extended period caused irreparable damage to his business. The case had a long and difficult procedural history and, after he failed to attend a hearing, a judge entered summary judgment in favour of the DfT.
In upholding his challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal found that he had a good reason for missing the hearing, in the form of a knee complaint which was causing him pain and which later required surgery. The Court noted that he also had a good arguable case that the DVLA had been negligent.
The DVLA had been entrusted with the documents and it was therefore arguable that it owed him a duty of care. It also could not possibly be argued that the DVLA could rely on the statutory immunity from such claims enjoyed by the Post Office. Although the Court urged that every effort be made to settle the matter, its decision opened the way for a full hearing of the man’s claim.