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Purdue v Devon Fire, Rescue Service (Court of Appeal)

15 October 2002
The issues

Emergency Services – fire engines – collisions – road traffic – duty to look.

The facts

A fire engine owned by the Defendant was travelling to an emergency along a long stretch of dual carriageway. It approached a junction, where a car was waiting to turn right across its path. As it approached, the light shown to the fire engine turned red and the light showing to the driver of the vehicle turned green. The driver pulled away and the fire engine and the car collided. At first instance, the County found the Fire Brigade liable on the basis that the fire engine had not been sounding wailers and that it had acted negligently in proceeding through the red light. There was no finding of contributory negligence. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. The facts in this case were very different to the facts in Griffin -v- Mersey Regional Ambulance Service NHS Trust. Each such case was to be determined upon its own facts.

2. A driver had a duty to take reasonable care to avoid a collision with any vehicle that crossed a red signal.

3. The Highway Code particularly obliged drivers to look and listen for emergency vehicles.

4. It was reasonable to expect that the Claimant would have looked to his right whilst he was stationary. It was not easy to say whether that expectation amounted to a duty. A properly observant driver however would have seen the fire engine coming. A finding of 20% contributory negligence would be made against the driver. Appeal allowed.

For further information on this case please contact Marie Macfarlane at mariemacfarlane@veitchpenny.co.uk.

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