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Woodham v JM Turner, Court of Appeal, 20 February 2012

27 February 2012
The issues

Road traffic accident – apportionment – motorcycle

The facts

The defendants were a coach company. One of its coaches was being driven along a minor road. It reached a T-junction in which it intended to turn right into a single carriage A-road. There were road works and temporary traffic lights to the left of the junction behind which was a queue of stationary traffic.

A big tractor and trailer had stopped to the right of the coach leaving a gap. The claimant was driving a motor cycle along the A-road towards the T-junction. He passed the queue of traffic behind the tractor and trailer. Another motorcyclist was behind him. The other motorcyclist remained behind the tractor but the claimant drove on overtaking the queue on the off side. As he did so, the coach pulled slowly out of the minor road at an angle rather than straight on. It intended to turn right through the gap left by the tractor.

The motorcycle hit the front off side corner of the coach. The claimant suffered serious injuries.

The judge found that the coach driver should not have moved forward into the gap left by the tractor when she could not properly see whether anyone was overtaking on the off side of the tractor and that the driver should have waited until there was a smaller vehicle than the tractor to her right. Moreover he held that adopting an angled approach meant her view to the right was obscured for longer than if she had emerged at a right angle. He found that the motorcyclist was familiar with the road and new about the T-junction and that there was a real possibility that a vehicle could emerge into his path through the gap left by the tractor. He noted the claimant had not waited as had the other motorcyclist behind the tractor. He is noted that he had overtaken at 20 mph whereas a speed of 15 mph would have given him a greater chance of taking evasive action. He found the claimant contributorily negligent and concluded that quantification of that negligence should be 30%. The coach company appealed.

The decision

The Court of Appeal would rarely interfere with decisions on an apportionment of liability and only where the judge had erred in principle or misunderstood the facts. It was clear that the accident would not have happened if the coach driver had waited until she had a clear view to her right, equally it would not have happened if the motorcyclist, contrary to the Highway Code, had not filtered up on the off side of the queue of traffic in a situation where there was foreseeable risk that a vehicle would come out of the junction and he was driving too fast.

The claimant was as much to blame for the accident as the defendant. It was wrong in view of the judge’s findings to have assessed liability as he had done. Appeal allowed to the extent that each party would bear 50% of the liability.

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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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