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Peter Houghton

Call 2005

Peter is an experienced junior with a thriving multi-track practice focussing on personal injury litigation, industrial disease claims and associated areas of work. He has appeared in several leading cases – most recently as Junior Counsel to Michael Kent QC in the Supreme Court matter of Dryden and ors v. Johnson Matthey Plc, on behalf of the Respondent.

Peter appreciates the importance of teamwork and communication to bring a case to a successful conclusion. Thus he is happy to advise informally by telephone or email as a case progresses. He also frequently travels to meet clients in conference or undertake site visits.

He appears on behalf of claimants and defendants and is happy to consider instructions on a CFA basis.

Peter regularly presents at Chambers and in-house seminars across the country. Recent talks have covered: special damages in fatal asbestos claims; recent developments in NIHL, cancer and other disease claims; and QOCS.

Personal Injury

Peter’s multi-track practice covers the following types of claim: road traffic accidents, accidents at work, slips and trips, highways claims, civil assaults, casualty fraud and motor fraud.

Representative examples of his recent work are as follows.

For Claimants:

  • Acting for a construction worker in his 30s who had one artificial eye since childhood and suffered a severe penetrating injury to his other eye in a building site accident. The Claimant developed a severe psychiatric disorder, as well as being greatly visually impaired. He was unable to return to work. Liability was denied. Following Peter’s successful application for a split trial and for disclosure of an unused expert report obtained by the defendant, liability was conceded. Peter was then led by Richard Lynagh QC in the assessment of damages, which was complicated by the Claimant’s history of alcoholism. There were claims for accommodation and for the loss of opportunity to become a director in the family firm. The case settled at a JSM for £1.4m.
  • Representing a man in his 40s with severe learning difficulties who broke his hip at a swimming pool when left unattended by his carers. There were no loss of earnings to be claimed, but claims were made for future surgeries and for intensive care and case management input around those surgeries. The case was settled for £200,000.
  • Acting for a man in his 40s who suffered a serious closed head injury and brain damage in a road traffic accident. Because of the complicated insurance position proceedings were issued against two motor insurers and the MIB. The Claimant was able to return to work within months of the accident. The case settled at JSM for £180,000.
  • Acting for a professional man in his 40s in a high-value claim arising out a severe knee injury sustained in a road traffic accident (settled for £200,000 days before trial).
  • Acting for a claimant in his 30s who sustained a serious knee injury and significant psychiatric and dermatological injuries following a fall from scaffolding. He could not resume scaffolding work but had retrained as a milkman. There were arguments about the aetiology of his ongoing symptoms and about what his pre-accident prospects as a scaffolder were. The case settled at a JSM for approximately £150,000, gross of liability split.
  • Representing a claimant in her 40s who injured her knee and subsequently developed low back symptoms and psychiatric symptoms. Whilst liability was admitted, the defendant at first made no offers, served medical evidence indicating that any injury resolved within a couple of weeks and disclosed surveillance footage. Peter’s input (conferences with and questions to experts, drafting the claimant’s statement and schedule, representation at a settlement meeting) led to a settlement of £60,000.
  • Acting for a claimant in his 30s who suffered a crush injury to his pelvis in an accident in which he was pinned against a telegraph pole by a reversing van. The driver’s insurers, having suggested that liability would not be in issue, changed tack and stated that it would, shortly before Peter’s involvement. Peter successfully resolved the issue of liability and steered the claim through (with the involvement of orthopaedic, psychiatric and pain experts) to a six-figure settlement.
  • Acting for a claimant in his 20s who suffered numerous severe lower limb injuries in a fall from scaffolding. Liability is in dispute and the case, which is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, is ongoing.

For Defendants:

  • Appearing successfully for a defendant highway authority at first instance and on appeal in a case concerning the s.58 defence and the scope of the Court of Appeal decision in Wilkinson v. York City Council.
  • Acting for a landowner sued by a neighbour who was struck on the head by a branch falling from the landowner’s tree and suffered a brain injury. Following Peter’s involvement in drafting correspondence, applying successfully to amend the Defence and negotiating on behalf of the client, the claim was withdrawn weeks before trial on satisfactory terms.
  • Representing an NHS trust sued by a psychiatric patient who suffered severe lower limb injuries. In this quantum-only matter the claimant asserted that he had developed diabetes and severe agoraphobia because of his orthopaedic injuries. His schedule was pleaded in excess of £1.1m. Peter acted for the trust at a JSM and offered a maximum £200,000, which the claimant rejected. Subsequently the claimant accepted the offer of £200,000 long out of time, bearing a significant portion of the defendant’s costs.
  • Acting for a defendant local council in a case where the claimant accidentally blinded herself in one eye and suffered a severe aggravation of her pre-existing psychiatric condition. The claim was pleaded in excess of £150,000. Peter represented the council at a JSM at which the matter was settled for only £50,000.
  • Acting for a defendant following a road traffic accident in which liability was admitted. Following disclosure of surveillance evidence and a successful application by Peter for permission to rely on it, Peter settled the case at a JSM for a fraction of its pleaded value.
  • Acting for a defendant in a quantum only matter following a road traffic accident. The claimant suffered a broken collarbone which failed to unite. However, he also claimed a panoply of symptoms including an exacerbation of his Crohn’s disease, which (he said) left him unable to work. Peter scrutinised the claimant’s DWP records and drafted correspondence disclosing surveillance evidence and making arguments about the contents of the records. He also drafted correspondence to the DWP seeking a review of a certificate of recoverable benefits. Shortly thereafter the claim settled for just £25,000 whereas it had been pleaded well into six figures.
  • Successfully defending numerous LVI trials throughout the country.

Peter has experience of CRU appeals and CICA claims.

Selected Cases

  • Furnell v. Flaherty t/a Godstone Farm [2013] EWHC 377 (QB) (led by Jonathan Waite QC) – following the outbreak of E.coli at Godstone Farm. The case concerned whether the Health Protection Agency or the local council’s environmental health officers owed a duty of care to visitors to the farm in tort.
  • John Ruskin College v. Harley [2013] EWHC 3714 (QB) – recovery of money mistakenly paid out of Court to claimant.

Industrial Disease

Peter specialises in industrial disease work, especially asbestos-related claims, NIHL, HAVS, occupational cancers, and WRULDs and other cumulative injuries. His disease work is predominantly for Defendants (although he does act for Claimants also). Peter is regularly instructed by leading Defendant firms and works for many of the foremost insurers.

Peter has considerable experience in the field of asbestos litigation. He prides himself on thorough preparation, detailed advice, confident advocacy and sound tactics. He has appeared in major test litigation, but in addition a large part of his practice consists of appearing at ‘show cause’ and assessment of damages hearings. He understands the importance of swift counter-schedules and advices on quantum/settlement that are often needed in this type of litigation.

Recent interesting cases in which he has been involved include:

  • The Employers’ Liability Policy Trigger Litigation. Peter acted for Excess Insurance Co. Ltd, appearing at the trial before Burton J, Durham v. BAI (Run Off) Ltd [2009] 2 All ER 26 (QBD). He also appeared in Excess’s successful appeal to the Court of Appeal, [2011] 1 All ER 605 (CA). Peter was instructed on the appeal to the Supreme Court in December 2011, [2012] UKSC 14.He was second junior for Excess (with Colin Edelman QC and David Platt QC).
  • Heneghan v. Manchester Dry Docks and ors: junior counsel (led by David Platt QC) for the defendants in this leading lung cancer case. The claimant’s appeal was successfully resisted in the Court of Appeal.
  • Two cases where mesothelioma victims from the medical profession bring claims based on ‘passing’ exposure to asbestos from lagged pipework in the 1970s in underground tunnels beneath NHS Hospitals. The claims are being defended and are ongoing.
  • A claim arising from alleged exposure in a power station in the 1950s, following the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald. The ‘show cause’ hearing was successfully defended, McDonald being distinguished.
  • Acting for a medium-sized building firm in its defence of a mesothelioma claim by a former employee exposed to modest amounts of asbestos from sawing asbestos-cement products in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The claim is ongoing.
  • Acting in a ‘contaminated overalls’ living mesothelioma case. The case involved the issue of the extent to which unearned income from assets that would subsist after death could be included in a ‘lost years’ claim. The matter settled for £90,000, against a schedule of over £300,000.
  • Appearing in a mesothelioma case concerning the scope of the 1969 Asbestos Regulations given that the claimant was (arguably) an independent contractor rather than an employee. The ‘show cause’ hearing was defended successfully and the claim is ongoing.
  • Advising in a case concerning the circumstances in which a Court can make a ‘Haxton award’.
  • Advising on a living mesothelioma claimant’s attempt to recover the cost of private medical treatment funded by a health insurer where the claimant himself was not party to the contract of insurance. Case settled.
  • Assisting leading UK companies to prepare generic materials to assist in the defence of future asbestos-related disease claims.
  • Acting in various insurance disputes stemming from asbestos-related disease claims (see the ‘Insurance’ section of Peter’s profile.

Other cases of interest or which are representative of Peter’s practice include:

  • Dryden v. Johnson Matthey – junior counsel to Michael Kent QC for the defendant employer in the claimants’ appeal to the Supreme Court in the Platinum Salts litigation.
  • An NIHL claim for the defendant in which the claimant alleged deafness as a result of the barking of dogs in kennels in which he worked. Breach of duty and causation were in dispute. The claim was discontinued soon before trial.
  • Acting for a defendant sued by a former employee who alleges that he has developed Parkinson’s Disease as a result of using solvents in the 1970s-1980s.
  • Numerous limitation trials in HAVS and NIHL matters.

Selected Cases

  • Durham v. BAI (Run Off) Ltd (the Employers’ Liability Policy Trigger Litigation):
    • [2008] EWHC 2692 (QB)
    • [2010] EWCA Civ 1096
    • [2012] UKSC 14
  • Heneghan v. Manchester Dry Docks Ltd and ors [2016] EWCA Civ 86

 

 

Product Liability

Peter is well-versed in claims involving products that have caused (or are said to have caused) injury or damage to property. He is comfortable marshalling the often-complex expert evidence and legal principles encountered in this field of work.

Recent work includes:

  • Representing a claimant injured when a nine-month-old car (which he had bought new) crashed. The claimant’s case was that the vehicle suffered from an intermittent brake servo defect that could, and did, cause the brakes suddenly and unexpectedly to lose power. Peter was involved from an early stage. The claim was fiercely resisted by a leading national car dealership and a major international motor manufacturer. Eventually the claim settled for almost all its full value a few days before trial.
  • Acting for a claimant injured when a ladder he had only just purchased new from a leading hardware store collapsed. A key issue was whether the instructions on the ladder, which the claimant had installed incorrectly, were adequate. The claim settled satisfactorily.
  • Acting for a packaging manufacturer accused of providing defective packaging to a food processing company which was said to have resulted in spoiled food and a large loss of profits.
  • Acting for a national retailer said to have supplied a defective halogen heater which caused a fire and large-scale property damage.
  • Acting for a well-known manufacturer of electronic and electrical equipment sued as a result of a fire said to have caused by a defective microwave. The case raised issues of the correct identity of the parties to it.

Inquests & Public Inquiries

Peter has many years of experience in the coronial jurisdiction. He appears for families of the deceased and other interested parties (such as doctors, drivers, care homes and employers).

Peter recognises how vital it is to prepare thoroughly for inquests and to handle witnesses sensitively at the hearings.

Recent inquest work includes:

  • Representing the former employer of a man who died from what his treating clinicians diagnosed as asbestosis. A civil claim had been intimated by the deceased during his lifetime. The issue was whether the deceased had in fact suffered from asbestosis or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Peter secured a conclusion of natural causes.
  • Representing a care home at which a resident fell whilst being transferred using a hoist. The matter was complicated by the facts that the carers who were hoisting the resident had been dismissed by Peter’s client before the inquest and that the Coroner had obtained expert evidence from the local county social services department as to hoisting. Key issues were whether the carers had been adequately trained, whether the hoist had malfunctioned or had never been properly secured, whether the hoist and sling were appropriate for the resident, the adequacy of the care home’s risk assessments and whether the resident’s room (which was of a standard size) was too small to accommodate the required hoist. Many of these had significant ramifications for the care home. Following the evidence, as part of which Peter cross-examined the council expert, the Coroner recorded a conclusion of accidental death. He decided that the carers had been properly trained, risk assessments were adequate, the hoist and sling were appropriate and the room was not too small.
  • Representing the motor insurers of a vehicle in which a young woman died following alleged racing between several cars late at night on country roads. The said vehicle was being driven by a man who was neither its owner nor insured to drive it or any other vehicle. Another passenger in that vehicle was very seriously injured in the fatal accident. Peter established during cross-examination that this passenger knew that the driver was not insured to the vehicle (or any other) and further that he knew the driver had never even taken a driving test. This had important consequences for any potential civil claims.
  • Representing a care home at which an elderly resident had wandered out of her room at night and been found dead on a flight of stairs having fallen. Key issues included the adequacy of risk assessments for the resident, whether she should have been identified as being at risk of nocturnal wandering and/or falling, whether she should have been housed on the home’s ground floor and whether nightly checks on her were sufficient and had been done properly. These were resolved to the home’s satisfaction. The Coroner reached a conclusion of accidental death.

Insurance & Reinsurance

Peter’s insurance practice stems chiefly from his work in personal injury and industrial disease litigation. He has advised on and litigated policy coverage issues.

He was second junior counsel (led by Colin Edelman QC and David Platt QC) for Excess Insurance in the Employers’ Liability Policy Trigger Litigation in the QBD (eight week trial before Burton J), in the Court of Appeal and ultimately in the Supreme Court.

Recent work includes:

  • Acting for one historic EL insurer of a dissolved company which wrongfully exposed a former employee to asbestos, causing him to develop mesothelioma. Peter’s client paid the employee’s claim at a time when no other insurance cover for the company could be traced. Some years subsequently other insurers, who had uploaded their details onto ELTO, were traced and pursued for contributions under the equitable principle in IEGL v. Zurich. One has contributed but the other refuses to do so alleging that the equitable claim for contribution is time barred. The claim between insurers will determine the limitation period applicable to an equitable claim for contribution as envisaged by the majority in IEGL.
  • Acting for a PL insurer in a fatal mesothelioma case which concerns the impact of the Trigger Litigation on the ’10 year rule’ in Bolton MBC v. MMI. The claim is worth approximately £1m and is ongoing. There is a dispute between PL insurers as to whose policy responds.
  • Acting for an EL insurer in a fatal mesothelioma claim in which indemnity was successfully declined on the grounds that the deceased was contractor and so not a ‘person under a contract of service’ within the terms of the policy.
  • Acting for the PL insurer of a nationwide retailer, one of whose employees (whilst off duty but visiting the workplace) was very seriously assaulted by another. The claim raises interesting issues of whether the EL or PL policy should respond.
  • Advising the beneficiaries of certain accidental death benefit insurance policies where the policy holder had died but the insurers had refused to pay out under the policies. The case turned on issues of proximate cause and interpretation of ‘accidental bodily injury’. Following Peter’s involvement the insurers paid out.
  • Advising a leading insurer as to whether certain claims fell under an EL or a group motor policy both issued to a national company.

Selected Cases

  • Durham v. BAI (Run Off) Ltd (the Employers’ Liability Policy Trigger Litigation):
    • [2008] EWHC 2692 (QB)
    • [2010] EWCA Civ 1096
    • [2012] UKSC 14

Costs

Peter is regularly instructed in costs disputes arising out of personal injury and industrial disease claims. He attends costs hearings in the Senior Courts Costs Office, the High Court and the County Courts.

He has considerable experience of detailed assessments of costs, acting for paying and receiving parties.

In addition he has litigated matters such as: wasted costs orders; the premature issue of proceedings; and the acceptance and effect of Part 36 offers and other offers.

Representative cases include:

  • Detailed assessment for paying party. Questions of premature issue and relevance of Part 45 predictive costs regime. Peter secured preliminary ruling that proceedings were issued prematurely.
  • Detailed assessment of Bill totalling more than £150,000, for paying party. Case settled satisfactorily following preliminary rulings that VAT was not recoverable at the current rate throughout and that costs were disproportionate.
  • Detailed assessment in SCCO for paying party following fatal mesothelioma claim. Peter successfully argued for reduction in hourly rates to be allowed to prominent claimant asbestos litigation firm.
  • Appeal to Circuit Judge from Regional Costs Judge over hourly rates allowed on detailed assessment in multi-track PI claim.

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Qualifications


  • MA (Hons) (Cantab) (Double First Class)
  • MPhil (Cantab) (Distinction)
  • CPE (City) (Distinction)
  • BVC (ICSL) (Outstanding)
  • Lord Brougham and Lord Denning Scholarships (Lincoln’s)

 


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