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Lindesay v Lamb & Tatner, Court of Appeal, 16 October 2008

21 November 2008
The issues

Road traffic – RTA – Part 20 claim – multiple car accident.

The facts

The Claimant, Mr Lindesay, suffered serious injuries when the scooter he was riding burst into flames after it collided with a lorry, driven by Mr Lamb, and a taxi, driven by Mr Tatner. Mr Lindesay sued Mr Lamb and succeeded in establishing liability against him, subject to a 20% deduction for contributory negligence. The lorry driver in turn sought a contributional indemnity from the taxi driver, Mr Tatner. That claim was dismissed. The lorry driver appealed.

The accident had happened at about 7am, after a cold and frosty night, when the road surface was still damp but visibility was good, on the 19th April 2004. It happened on the A30 which was a dual carriageway. All of the vehicles involved were driving in a South Westerly direction. They were all on the inside lane in a line of traffic, at a speed of about 30mph. Of the three vehicles involved, the taxi was in the front. In front of the taxi was a people carrier. In front of that was a Volkswagon. In front of that was a van. In front of that was a Toyota Avensis. The Toyota developed a puncture and the driver pulled over and stopped on the nearside. The van braked suddenly and swerved around it. The Volkswagon braked hard and managed to stop behind the Toyota. The people carrier braked hard and managed to stop behind the Volkswagon. The taxi braked hard but failed to stop in time and collided with the back of the people carrier. By the time this happened the scooter was behind the taxi and in front of the lorry. When the taxi braked hard the accident occurred. Everything happened within a split second. The lorry braked hard and swerved to the left. It struck the back of the taxi quite hard. The scooter came into contact with both vehicles and turned over.

At Trial, between Mr Lindesay and Mr Lamb, the Judge found that the lorry driver had been negligent in that he had been travelling too close to the taxi. He had not observed the scooter when it had eased itself into the space between the taxi and the lorry or drawn back so as to allow more space between him and the scooter. As a result he was too close and when the emergency arose the lorry collided with the scooter, causing the injuries. The Claimant was negligent in that he had failed to react adequately to the emergency braking by steering to his right.

The Part 20 claim was based on the allegation that the taxi driver had suddenly and unexpectedly braked hard and collided with the vehicle ahead of him, thereby creating an emergency situation behind him. Liability was denied on the basis that the taxi driver had had to brake sharply because the car ahead of him had braked sharply – he had had to do an emergency stop. He accepted that he had failed to stop in time to avoid a collision with the vehicle ahead, but this had not caused the accident behind. It was alleged that it was the responsibility of the lorry and scooter drivers to maintain a sufficient distance behind him. The Judge dismissed the Part 20 claim on the basis that the Defendant had failed to establish causation as the accident would still have happened even if the taxi driver had avoided hitting the vehicle in front of him. Moreover, the Judge was not satisfied that the taxi driver was in breach of his duty of care because it was not in itself negligent to have to engage in an emergency stop.

The decision

If the taxi driver had stopped in time he would have stopped further back, leaving even less room for the lorry to stop. The Judge was entitled to say, as he had done, that the lorry driver had not satisfied him as to causation.

The lorry driver had accepted that the only way in which he could hope to show causation against the taxi driver was by showing that his negligence consisted not merely in failing to stop but in performing the emergency stop when it was not necessary. It was right to say that it did not matter whether the taxi struck the car in front or not. What mattered was whether the taxi driver unnecessarily put the vehicles behind him in difficulty. The only way in which the lorry driver could hope to succeed would be to show that, far from the taxi driver being too close to the vehicle ahead, he had in fact had sufficient space to stop without emergency braking if he had been paying proper attention set forward at Trial. The Appeal was an attempt to present a different factual basis from that which had been advanced at Trial. It had to fail.

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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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