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Hatton v Cooper, Court of Appeal

8 May 2001
The issues

Centre Of Road Collisions – Inferences To Be Drawn – Equal Responsibility

The facts

On 19th September 1995 during the day and in god visibility the Claimant’s car collided with the Defendant’s car when both were travelling in opposite directions. Neither party had any recollection of the impact and there were no eyewitnesses. The Judge found the Defendant wholly responsible for the collision. The Defendant accepted primary liability but alleged 50% contributory negligence. The Defendant alleged that both parties approached each other on a collision course near the centre of the road without deviating from it and responsibility should be shared equally.

The decision

On the evidence it was likely that one of the vehicles had suddenly changed direction when it was too late for the other to take evasive action. The Judge had concluded that the Defendant was wholly responsible on the basis of the evidence of the Claimant’s employer that he was a careful driver. The Judge had been wrong to attach any significant weight to that evidence. Without that evidence there was no basis for finding the Defendants solely responsible for the collision. The only reasonable and proper inference that could be drawn from the available evidence was that each party was partly responsible. Since the evidence did not enable the Court to apportion the blame equally between them it followed on the authority of Baker v Market Harbour Industrial Co-operative Society Limited (1953) that both drivers were equally responsible.

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