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Pickett v MIB, Court of Appeal, 22 January 2004

26 January 2004
The issues

Road traffic – MIB – common venture – Compensation of Uninsured Driver’s Agreement Clause 6.1 – consent and knowledge.

The facts

The Claimant had met Mr Roberts 5 months before her accident on 12th July 1999. They had been living together in a flat in Merthyr Tydfil for a month. They did not have much money, but had managed to find enough to buy a cheap car. They could not afford the insurance. On the day of the accident, they had managed to borrow £100.00 and celebrated by putting £5.00 worth of petrol in the car and go for a drive “in order to have some fun”. Roberts drove. The Claimant sat next to him in the front passenger seat. They were in the hills above Merthyr, taking an old track, which ran parallel with the road from Merthyr to Fochriw. Mr Roberts began to make handbrake turns. She asked Mr Roberts to stop. He carried on however doing more handbrake turns. She became frightened and said something like “for God’s sake stop the car”. Part of her concern was for her dog in the back seat, which was “flying about”. She thought he was slowing down to stop and let her and the dog out and she took her seatbelt off. He then accelerated and made another handbrake turn, this time losing control. The Claimant suffered serious injuries including a fracture of the spine rendering her paraplegic. The Claimant sought to rely on the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1988 and to obtain a declaration that the MIB were obliged to satisfy the Judgment against Roberts. The MIB relied on paragraph 6(i)(e) of the Agreement, in that at the time of use the Claimant was allowing herself to be carried in the vehicle knowing that it was uninsured. The Judge dismissed the Claim. The Claimant Appealed.

The decision

1. The words “new or ought to have known” had been construed by Lord Nicholls in White -v- MIB. By reference to the Directive, and its purpose, Lord Nicholls had noted that the exception was to be construed strictly. It required that a high degree of personal fault must exist before it would be right for an injured passenger to be deprived of compensation. The exception was aimed at the persons who were “consciously colluding in the use of an uninsured vehicle”. It did not stretch to passengers who were merely careless in the matter of the existence of obligatory insurance.

2. The correct view was to look at the situation at the beginning of the journey, as this is the time at which the consent is likely to have been given.

3. Where someone has entered a vehicle voluntarily, knowing that it is uninsured, that person can only withdraw his or her consent (and therefore not be caught by the exception any longer) if he or she expresses “an unequivocal repudiation of the common venture to which consent was given when she entered the vehicle” or makes “a demand to be let out of the car so as to disassociate herself from its use”.

4. On these facts, the Court could not accept that her consent had been sufficiently withdrawn. It was not sufficient to tell Mr Roberts to stop doing handbrake turns in the same way that it would not be sufficient for a passenger being driven in a car on a motorway to tell a driver he knew to be uninsured to stop driving at 100 mph and reduce his speed. That did not amount to a demand to be let out of the car. The Claimant had throughout been aiding and abetting the unlawful use of the car. She had been consciously colluding in the use of her own uninsured vehicle and there was a high degree of personal fault. Even at the high water mark of her evidence to the effect that she had used words such as “for God’s sake stop the car” her evidence did not amount to showing that she had unequivocally disassociated herself from Mr Roberts’ driving. She had been concerned for her dog and had thought it had wanted to relieve itself. No doubt had Mr Roberts stopped to enable the dog to relieve itself, she would have got back in the car and continued the uninsured journey.

Appeal dismissed.

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