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Arneson v Heffey, Court of Appeal

16 July 2002
The issues

RTA – motorbike – emergency.

The facts

The Defendant was driving on the M54, a two-lane motorway. Her speed was about 70 mph and she was in the fast lane. She suffered a blow out to one of her tyres. She slowed, indicated, intending to stop on the hard shoulder. The traffic was “reasonably heavy”. She switched on hazard lights, eventually stopping in the middle of the offside lane. The driver behind saw the manoeuvre and pulled into the nearside lane to avoid the car. The car behind that car also missed the stationary car, but only narrowly. The car behind that car, in turn pulled into the nearside lane. Two motorbikes passed the driver of that car. One steered around the Defendant’s car. The other, ridden by the Claimant, crashed into it. The Judge found that the Defendant had had time to pull into the hard shoulder (because the other drivers had had time to avoid her) or that she should have stopped the car as near as possible to the central crash barrier. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. The only merit in the Judge’s Judgment was its brevity.

2. There was no evidence to justify the Judge’s conclusion that the Defendant had had time to move across to the hard shoulder. His reasoning was fallacious.

3. The suggestion that the Defendant should have pulled up against the central crash barrier had never been pleaded.

4. If the Judge had properly analysed the evidence, he would not have found that the Defendant had had the time to move the car that the Judge concluded she had. Too high a standard had been placed by the Judge on the Defendant. The Defendant had been presented with an emergency and she had reacted as best she could.

Appeal allowed.

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