0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

Girbash v Mail Line Auto Engineering Limited, Court of Appeal, 24 May 2004

2 June 2004
The issues

Road Traffic – Whether Garage That Had Inspected And Repaired Vehicle Before Accident Was Responsible For Later Accident – Appeals

The facts

The Claimant had been driving a Ford Transit van on the A303 at Berwick Down in Wiltshire on 30th April 1998 when she lost control of it. It collided with a Volvo car coming in the opposite direction. She suffered serious head injuries and her boyfriend who was a passenger in the van was killed. The Claimant was so seriously injured that she was unable to give evidence or to take part in the Trial.

The Claimant’s case was that the collision was caused by the defective condition of the rear offside brakes of the van. She alleged that she had brought the van in for servicing on 28th April 1998 and that it was the garage’s fault in effect that the accident had occurred. The Trial was limited to liability and in particular two issues: –

1. Whether the Claimant brought the van to Main Lines Garage for inspection and repair not long before the accident and
2. Whether the condition of the off side brakes caused or materially contributed to the accident.

The matter was heard by the Deputy High Court Judge who answered both questions in favour of the Claimant. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. Did the Claimant bring the van in for servicing on 28th April 1998?

The Judge had had no direct evidence which would enable him to answer this question and it all depended therefore upon what inferences it was appropriate for him to draw from the evidence before him. It had been a difficult case for the Judge to decide. However, the Judge was entitled to conclude that the Claimant took the van to the Defendant and subsequently collected it on the basis of his inferences.

Although there had been cases in which appellant Courts had reversed decisions of Trial Judges in favour of Claimants on the ground that the Judge should have held that they had not proved their case, those cases would be few and far between. In this case the Judge’s decision on this point would not be reversed given that he was in a better position than the Court of Appeal to assess the evidence including in particular oral evidence.

2. Did the defective brakes cause or contribute to the accident?

The Appeal Court would not interfere with the conclusions reached by the Judge. The Court was not persuaded that the Judge was not entitled to reach his conclusions. At the very least he was entitled to hold that the affect of the braking made a material contribution to the loss of control and thus to the accident.

Appeal dismissed.

Comments

Lord Justice Mance dissented strongly on the basis that the only satisfactory conclusion that could be reached on the available evidence in this case was that the true position was in doubt on a key issue of fact and that therefore the claim failed. This was a rare situation and few cases would fall within this category of case but nonetheless the law recognised such cases as had been shown in Rhesa Shipping Co SA v Edmunds (The Popi M) a decision of the House of Lords in 1985. Similar cases had been Morris v London Iron & Steel Company Limited (1998) and Ashraf v Akram (1999) – where Sedley LJ talked of the resolution of the issue of who had been speaking the truth in that case as being “blocked by an intractable evidential tangle”. The Judge had committed the error identified in the Popi M of believing it necessary to decide between one side’s case and the other, rather than asking whether the Claimant had made out her case on the balance of probabilities.

focus on...

Legal updates

Non-payment of insurance premiums during the Coronavirus pandemic

The forced closure of many businesses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Recent reports from the Office for National Statistics state that the economy was 25% smaller in April than it was in February this year.

View

Legal updates

Reinstatement for property damage losses – when does it apply?

The Court of Appeal has recently considered the correct test for measuring the indemnity for property damage losses and has provided useful guidance on whether an insured needs to intend to reinstate the property to its pre-loss condition.

View

Legal updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) insurance considerations

With instances of COVID-19 rapidly increasing throughout the UK, many businesses are considering the options available to limit staff and customer exposure to Coronavirus.

View

Legal updates

Insurance annual review 2019-2020

Welcome to our review of 2019 as we look ahead to what is on the horizon for the insurance sector in 2020.

View

The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

mailing list sign up



Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up