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North v TNT Express Ltd, Court of Appeal, 25 May 2001

29 May 2001
The issues

Road Traffic Accident – Breaking Sharply – Alcohol Induced Incident

The facts

At 1.00 am on 18th March 1995, S employed by the Defendant firm was driving an articulated lorry. He had with him another employee, D.

S had to follow a diversion off the A3 which took him through Weybridge. On the way he passed a wine bar which had just closed for the evening. The Claimant and a group of friends who had been drinking at the wine bar were standing by a roundabout nearby waiting for a taxi to pick them up. As the lorry headed towards the second exit of the roundabout, the Claimant stepped into the road in front of the lorry. He said he asked for a lift home and that S refused. N then climbed onto the front of the lorry and stood on the bumper and held on to the windscreen wipers. S asked N twice to get down but N refused. S then drove off slowly. N said S drove off in a jerking manner braking and accelerating by turns. After a short distance N fell off and was struck by the lorry.

The Judge found as a fact that N had fallen because he had been pulling the windscreen wiper off and had been successful. The Judge also decided that the driver should not have been driving at all with N hanging on.

The Defendant appealed.

The decision

S had been put in a difficult situation by N and it was hard for him to know what to do. The Judge applied too harsh a standard of care deciding what he had done was reasonable. If he had been braking sharply then that might have been a breach of duty but the Judge did not find this to be the case. All the circumstances had to be taken into account in deciding whether what S had done was reasonable. N had been drunk and had acted irresponsibly. It was late at night. S had little alternative other than to drive off. The event itself had occurred as a result of N’s stupid act. There was no breach of duty and the Defendant could not be held liable.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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