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Singh v Yaqubi

11 February 2013
The issues

Credit hire – reasonableness of replacement vehicle – Rolls Royce

The facts

A judge’s training, experience and instincts were to apply legal principles regardless of their view.

On the 6th August 2009 the claimant’s Rolls Royce was involved in an accident with the defendant’s vehicle in central London. The matter came before the judge of the Central London County Court. The judge found for the claimant on liability. Although the vehicle was drivable after the accident, the parties accepted that repair was required. Whilst the vehicle was being repaired, the claimant hired a Bentley for 5 days and then a Rolls Royce. The vehicle was taken for repair on the 11th August 2009. The engineer’s inspection occurred on the 11th September 2009. Repairs were completed on the 29th September 2009 and the hire period ended on the 30th September 2009. The total claim for hire charges was £99,439.06, at a daily rate of £2,000 for the Rolls Royce. The total amount claimed was £92,953.90.

The judge dismissed the hire claim, but considered what award he would have made, had it been reasonable for the claimant to hire a Rolls Royce. The defendant submitted written evidence of charges and called a witness, Ms Bennett, who gave oral evidence on the basis of enquiries made. The judge accepted her evidence that a Rolls Royce could have been hired for the relevant period for £21,428.57.

The claimant appealed.

The decision

There were three grounds of appeal:

  • a challenge to the judge’s finding on need
  • a challenge to the judge’s finding as to the appropriate sum to be awarded, if need was established
  • a challenge on the basis of serious irregularity by reason of the judge’s apparent bias.

i) Bias
The claimant alleged that the judge had made facetious comments, quoting verses from a poem by Hilaire Belloc (‘The Elephant’ from A Bad Child’s Book of Beasts); and had made deleterious comments in respect of the claimant to the effect that he had struggled with the moral question as to whether it was right that “the ever increasing insurance premiums of the ordinary motorist… should in some part be used so that the rich may continue at no expense to themselves to be filled with the good things that they think they need” and later in respect to the claimant’s need to maintain an image commented: “what a testament that is to the superficial, if not false nature of the warped values of society, or as the claimant himself put it: “that is how these people see it” “.

Judges were frequently placed in a position where the application of legal principles to evidence required them to reach a conclusion contrary to moral views that they might hold, or views that they might hold on social values. A judge’s training, experience and instincts were to apply legal principles regardless of their view. There was nothing in the case to suggest that the judge had neglected his duties or overlooked his responsibilities. Comments of the kind made by the judge were not to be encouraged, but the manner and openness of their expression encouraged rather than discouraged to the conclusion that he was well aware of his responsibility to consider the evidence fairly and to decide the case. This ground would be rejected.

ii) Hire charge
The tort feasor takes his victim as he finds him. A victim had always to act reasonably. The burden was on the defendant to show that the claimant had acted unreasonably in replacing the Rolls Royce and, as had been said in Giles v Thompson by Lord Mustill, “the need for a replacement car is not self-proving”. The claimant had to show that there was a reasonable need for a replacement Rolls Royce during the period of repair. The required need was the need of the partnership. Such a need was not self-proving. The judge had been entitled to find that the need had not been established. Very large hire claims such as this ought to be scrutinised carefully by the court and particularly when the business partnership, which was required to establish the need, had a fleet of seven prestigious cars on the same insurance. For such a business claim to succeed, the judge was entitled to require specific evidence of need, such as evidence of the actual use of the vehicle for business purposes before the accident and the use to which the hired vehicle was put during the period of hire. The evidence that had been given was vague and not specific.

Appeal dismissed.

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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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