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Booth v White, Court of Appeal, 18 November 2003

24 November 2003
The issues

Road traffic – drink driving – contributory negligence – passenger.

The facts

The Claimant and Defendant had gone to a pub to have a drink at 12.30 pm. After about 45 minutes, the Claimant left to play a game of football. He came back to meet the Defendant at 5.00 pm. In the meanwhile, the Defendant had been drinking pints of lager, probably at a rate of 2 or 3 pints an hour. The Claimant said in evidence that he knew that the Defendant drank regularly and that he could handle his drink. At about 6.15 pm, the Claimant’s wife came to the pub. When she gave evidence she said that the Defendant was acting normally and there was nothing that led her to believe that he could not drive safely. A little later, the Defendant gave a lift to the Claimant, who was sitting in the front seat. The Defendant lost control of the car and crashed and the Claimant suffered injury. The Defendant argued that the Claimant was contributorily negligent on the basis that he knew or ought to have known that the Defendant had been drinking a substantial amount of alcohol. The Judge dismissed the plea of contributory negligence on the basis that there was no evidence that the Defendant was acting in anyway that suggested he was unable to drive safely and on the basis that the Claimant’s wife’s evidence was not challenged. He found that the Claimant did not have a duty to ask the Defendant how much he had had to drink before he got in the car.

The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. The Judge had heard the evidence and had made his finding on the basis of the evidence of the Claimant’s wife.

2. There was no duty on a Claimant to make the sort of enquiries that the Defendant argued he should have made as to how much drink the Defendant had had.

Appeal dismissed.

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