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Jukes v Etti & Motor Insurance Bureau, High Court, 6 April 2006

29 September 2006
The issues

Road traffic – pedestrian hit by motor car – contributory negligence.

The facts

On 27th March 1999 at about 10pm the Claimant, aged 37, was crossing Streatham High Road when he was hit by a Ford Mondeo driven by the First Defendant. He was seriously injured. He made a claim for damages in respect of the driver’s negligence. Liability remained an issue and was tried as a preliminary issue. The Claimant’s condition was such that he had no recollection of the circumstances giving rise to the accident and the Judge made an Order limiting lay evidence to that recorded by the police officers, the original accident report, together with the Defendant’s oral evidence as to his own current recollection. Both sides called experts, namely Mr Manderson and Dr Searle.

The speed limit was 30 mph. The road was a duel carriageway. The street light was afforded by standard, regularly positioned lamp standards. The road progressed from duel carriageway to single carriageway at the point of the Claimant’s accident. The Defendant was driving south bound along the road. There was at the bus stop a bus, possibly pulling away. Possibly because of the bus the Defendant, on getting to the point where the road was marked “single carriageway” opted to drive down the offside lane. The Claimant apparently had got off the bus and was trying to cross the road on foot. When in the offside lane of the nearside half of the road he was struck by the oncoming Mondeo. He was propelled off of the Defendant’s vehicle as to land in the offside lane of the north bound carriageway, according to such evidence as there was. No skid marks were to be found. The Defendant brought his car to a halt some 50 meters down the road.

The Defendant told Woman Police Constable Baker that as he was driving down the road he saw the Claimant in front of him in the offside lane. He thought he might have come from the bus at the bus stop. He remembered him in front with his arms out. He hit the front offside of the car.

A Chinese witness, Mr Su, told the police constable that he saw a man stopped in the road looking at the car coming his way. He saw the man run in front of the car and the Mondeo hit the man. He said that the Mondeo was not going fast. The third witness, a 16 year old boy, also made a statement to the police. He saw a man step out from behind a bus which was about to leave the bus stop when he saw a white car driving in the outside lane, towards the rear of the bus. The man tried to run out across the front of the car but the car did not appear to have enough time to brake and hit the man.

The expert evidence was agreed that the speed range of the Ford Mondeo at impact was between 25 mph and 35 mph with a strong probability that the actual speed was closer to 30 mph.

The decision

The contemporaneous statement of the Defendant amounted to an admission that his lookout was such that he never saw the Claimant until he was in his immediate path. That admission was consistent with his failure to brake or steer prior to the impact and his subsequent failure to come to a halt until, as he had told the Court, he had mastered the shock he had sustained. With the exercise of reasonable care the Defendant should have observed the Claimant as a pedestrian and a potential hazard.

The Court was satisfied that the Defendant was negligent.

The question remained as to whether the negligence materially contributed to the accident. At impact the Claimant was but half the cars width from safety. Had the Defendant been driving reasonably carefully the car could have should have been steered into the empty nearside lane giving the Claimant the opportunity “to pass in breathless safety”.

As to contributory negligence, and bearing in mind guidance from the Court of Appeal in Baker v Willoughby, Liddell v Middleton, Eagle v Chambers, as to blameworthiness and causative potency, an appropriate measure of contributory negligence would be 40%.

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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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