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Cui Bono – who benefits from delays in credit hire periods?

28 March 2024

DWF acted upon instructions from Cornish Mutual Assurance Company to defend a claim presented for credit hire, recovery and storage charges. At trial, District Judge Griffiths found that the credit hire company's actions amounted to a new and intervening act which was inexplicable, professionally negligent and broke the chain of liability.

Zoe Atkinson v Cornish Mutual Assurance Company 


On 17th October 2022, the defendant's insured's vehicle was involved in a collision with Miss Atkinson's Honda NSC 110. The claimant's vehicle was damaged as a result of the incident and was recovered from the claimant's address in Devon to the accident management company's facility approximately 160 miles away. 

Miss Atkinson entered into a credit hire agreement for a replacement vehicle and subsequently issued proceedings against the defendant seeking an award of damages comprising credit hire in the sum of £10,440.96, collection, estimate and storage charges in the sum of £1,596.00.

Liability was not disputed but the claimant's claim for damages was denied in its entirety. The defendant pleaded that the claimant's hire company had acted unreasonably in prolonging the hire period. Further, the defendant had been asked to pay for an inspection, the results of which had not been disclosed.


At trial the matter was heard by District Judge Griffiths and evidence was led that the inspection by the hire company's mechanic took place on 21st October 2022. The judge then asked the claimant's counsel "why in those circumstances the claimant is messing around and asking the defendant to complete an assessment." 

Upon reviewing further correspondence, where the hire company asked the defendant insurer to complete an inspection whilst not providing the results of their own inspection, the judge asked why that delay should fall at the door of the defendant and why the hire company did not provide the defendant with their assessment. Counsel for the claimant could not offer an explanation.

The judge commented that it was surprising in the extreme that the hire company did not say they already had a completed report. 

With regards to the actual hire period the judge noted the hire company were seeking to bill for the full period of hire plus an additional month that was not justified. 


It was held this significant period of delay amounted to a new and intervening event as it was inexplicable, professionally negligent and broke the chain of liability.

Hire was reduced to £4,272.96. Storage was dismissed due to the claimant having no need to incur such charges and the recovery claim failed. The estimate had never been provided and there was no evidence to support the same. 

The judge applied his discretion as a consequence of the claimant failing to beat the defendant's part 36 offer and limited the claimant to small claims costs at the point of issue, leading to a further cost saving. 

DWF Takeaway 

District Judge Griffiths' judgment is clear on the point of the hire company not acting in the claimant's best interests. By transporting the vehicle 160 miles to utilise apparent specialist equipment to assess damage and then neglect to disclose the results of the assessment to the compensating insurer, the hire company prolonged hire for their sole benefit. 

The hire company were acting as the claimant's agents and were FCA registered. The court found that they were not acting in their client's best interests and the hire period was reduced accordingly with adverse judicial comment. 

It is welcomed that the court took notice of the attempts to prolong the hire period by the hire company. Historically there have been suspicions of sharp practice or some credit hire companies prolonging the hire period to the detriment of their client but for their own benefit. 

It was crucial in this case to be able to exhibit to the court clear evidence of the behaviour by way of correspondence and a clear chronology for the court.

For further information please contact Patrick Higham.

Further Reading