In Mary Harvey v. Motor Insurers’ Bureau (QBD (Merc) (Manchester), Claim No: 0MA40077, 21 December 2011), the High Court held that it was not appropriate to grant leave to appeal an arbitrator’s decision that the victim of a road traffic accident was not entitled to compensation for personal injury under s.69 the Arbitration Act 1996 (the Act) (s.69 of the Act only allows appeals to be made where the arbitrator has made some error of law).

The applicant (H) was seeking compensation in respect of serious injuries she suffered when struck by a motor vehicle driven by an unidentified person whilst crossing the road. After failed negotiations with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, the matter was referred to arbitration. The arbitrators concluded that there was no evidence that the accident had been caused by the negligent driving of an untraced motorist and accordingly held that there was no case for an award of compensation.

H applied for permission to appeal under s.69 of the Act. It was held by Judge Hegarty QC that H’s contention that the arbitrator had failed to apply or properly consider the untraced driver’s duty of care towards her, and had erred in law in failing to conclude that the untraced driver was primarily liable to her in negligence, did not raise a true question of law; rather the thrust of her complaint seemed simply to be that the arbitrator had made unreasonable and unsafe findings of fact. As such, leave of appeal under s.69 was refused.

This case emphasises the difficulty in bringing appeals under s.69 of the Act and demonstrates that the courts will not entertain appeals on issues of fact which are merely dressed up as appeals on questions of law.