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Adjei v King

23 April 2003
The issues

Road Traffic -Pedestrian – Contributory Negligence – Blameworthiness – Blame

The facts

The Claimant’s Estate sued the Defendant following a road traffic accident on 11th May 1999. The deceased was with two colleagues. They came to a point in a built up area with a speed limit of 30 mph where the road was in three lanes, two of them south bound, one being reserved for buses. Both the deceased’s colleagues safely crossed the road ahead of him. He tried to cross the road and was hit by a coach driven by the Defendant. He was killed. A 17-year-old witness gave evidence that the coach was being driven faster than any other vehicle on the road and in her view was being driven recklessly. The driver of a car ahead of the coach saw the collision in her driving mirror and took the view that the driver of the coach was going “at quite a speed” and that it approached the man standing on the line between the bus and the driving lanes and the coach did not appear to slow down. She said that she saw Mr Adjei take a step forwards and then a step backwards. Another driver thought that the coach was not going too fast but was not sure if it was travelling more than 30 mph.

Police Constable Dale, an experienced accident investigator found that the speed of the vehicle at the start of the skid was 25 mph.

The Judge rejected the Police Constable’s evidence because he did not think there was sufficient evidence upon which to base it. He found that the Defendant was driving at a wholly excessive speed and found for the Estate of the deceased. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. The Judges’ finding of speed was not one open to him on the evidence. The Judge had based his entire finding against the Defendant on the question of speed and did not consider the other allegations pleaded. The other allegations had been re-introduced by means of a Respondent’s Notice by the respondent with the leave of the Court of Appeal.

2. The Court now had to make its own findings of fact. The driver had been faced with a pedestrian standing in a wholly inappropriate position in a centre of a road taking a step forward and than a step backward. He should have slowed down or given a warning by a horn or in some other way have avoided him. He did none of these things. The Defendant had been negligent.

3. The Judge had rejected contributory negligence. There was no evidence to suggest whatever the speed of the coach that the deceased could not have seen the coach before he crossed. He had not conducted himself in a manner consistent with a reasonable regard for his own safety. It was important to remember the House of Lords decision in Baker v Willoughby. It was wrong to equate causation with blameworthiness. Because both parties had an equal opportunity to see each other was not a reason for saying that they were equally to blame. Pedestrian and a motorist were in a different position. A heavier liability lies on the motorist than the pedestrian. The correction apportionment would be 40% contributory negligence.

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