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Wreford-Smith v Airtours Holidays Limited, Court of Appeal, 5 April 2004

15 April 2004
The issues

Road traffic – collision with oncoming vehicle – reaction time.

The facts

The Claimants (22 in all) were holidaymakers travelling on a coach, which Airtours had contracted to transport them. The accident occurred in Turkey on a dual carriageway. The coach was hit by a taxi coming in the opposite direction, which crossed the central reservation, which was made up of bushes. It was common ground that the taxi driver was mainly to blame, but in these actions the Claimants argued that the driver of the coach was also to blame in that had he been more alert and had he been driving at a slower speed, he might have avoided the taxi. The Judge heard evidence from two witnesses called by the Defendant, who said that whilst the coach driver had been going faster than the speed limit, he had had no chance of avoiding the accident, which had happened too quickly. The coach passengers had given evidence to the effect that there had been between 4 and 5 seconds for the driver to do something. The Judge preferred the Defendant’s evidence and dismissed the claim, finding that the time between the taxi entering the carriageway and colliding with the coach had not been long enough for the driver to react. The Claimants appealed.

The decision

The Judge had taken into account in his summary of the evidence the fact that the burden of proof rested wit the Claimants and that their evidence had been compiled 5 years after the event and mostly in generic terms. The Judge had come to the view that the Claimant’s evidence had been reconstructed. He had preferred the evidence of the Defendant’s witness. These findings were open to the Judge and he was justified in dismissing the claim, although the driver had been driving faster than that permitted by the speed limit, he had not been negligent.

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