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Nelson v Chief Constable of Cumbria

15 August 2000
The issues

Police Officers – Duty of Care – Extent Of Duty Owed to Road Users When Not Engaged In Pursuit.

The facts

The Claimant was driving a distinctive car, a vehicle similar to which he had used on previous occasions to speed away from Police vehicles. A Police Officer in a transit van followed the car indicating that it should stop when about 5 to 6 lengths behind and for 50 – 60 metres at 30 – 40 mph. The Claimant performed an emergency stop. The Police vehicle collided with the rear of the car. Minor damage was done and some injury to the Claimant. The Claimant brought an action against the Chief Constable.

The decision

The Police owed the same duty of care as any other driver. This was not a case of pursuit or over excessive speed. Consequently the collision was prima facia evidence of negligence which would require strong evidence in rebuttal to avoid liability. There was none here. However, an unexplained emergency stop was also negligent in the circumstances and the Claimant was found 25% contributorily negligent.

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