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Honnor v Lewis, High Court, 27 April 2005

20 May 2005
The issues

Road Traffic – Contributory Negligence of Child – Driver Not Slowing Down or Sounding Horn

The facts

On 9th September 1994 the Claimant who was then aged 12 left home to walk to his school. As he was crossing the B1284 called North Road he was hit by a Ford Fiesta driven by the Defendant. He was seriously injured.

North Road is a single carriageway with two lanes, one going in each direction. It runs through a residential area. There are three schools all on one side of the road. The accident happened at about 8.38 am. When schools are about to start North Road would be busy with children either on the footway or attempting to cross the road. School children generally had to be at school by 8.50 am. There were lollypop ladies on duty at different points in North Road but many children preferred to cross North Road where it was convenient for them rather than making the detour to where the lollypop ladies were.

The Judge found that the Claimant stopped and looked right before he stepped into the road but he did not see the Defendant’s car. He began crossing the road without running and without having seen the Defendant’s car. He had distinctive red hair and was tall for his age. He was easily visible. The expert evidence based in part on skid marks was that the car was going at about 30 mph at the time of the collision. The time that elapsed from the Claimant leaving the kerb and reaching the point at which he was struck would have been about 2.15 seconds. Taking into account reaction time and braking time the Defendant should have been able to stop in time.

Even if the Defendant had not been able to stop he should have been able to slow down which on the basis of the evidence of a Consultant Neurosurgeon called on the Claimant’s behalf could have substantially reduced the prospect of the Claimant receiving serious brain damage.

The decision

The Defendant would have passed a school warning sign with lights flashing about 700 feet further up North Road. The Defendant would have had a clear and unobstructed view of the Claimant when he was standing on the side of the road. He was not keeping a proper lookout as he failed to see the Claimant. He did not slow down or alter his speed in any way before the impact. He did not sound his horn to warn the Claimant not to cross North Road.

In these particulars the Defendant was negligent.

The Claimant clearly did not see the Defendant’s car. The Claimant was not looking at all towards all the oncoming traffic on his right as he should have done. In the case of an adult this would amount to contributory negligence. A child of his age should have realised the need to look out carefully for traffic coming from his right especially on a busy road. The Claimant was therefore contributorarily negligent.

The Defendant’s conduct was much more causatively potent and more blameworthy than that of the Claimant. The Claimant’s contributory negligence would be assessed at 20%.

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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.

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