Black cab passengers are not insured against rape in taxis, judge rules
PUBLISHED June 25, 2012
The judgement came as victims of John Worboys, the taxi driver who became known as the notorious "black-cab rapist", lost a battle for damages against his motor insurer today.
Ten women had asked a High Court judge in London to rule in their favour in a landmark action relating to the liability of motor insurers over their injuries.
In his ruling today, Mr Justice Silber found that the bodily injuries suffered by the women did not arise out of the use of Worboys' vehicle on a road or other public place within the meaning of the 1988 Act.
The judge said: "It is clear that the fact of the location of the offences of administering the sedatives and of committing or attempting the sexual assaults occurred in Worboys' taxi, but that is not conclusive or by itself of any real potency.
"They did not arise out of the use of the taxi on a road."
John Worboys, 54, was jailed indefinitely in 2009 after being convicted at Croydon Crown Court of drugging and sexually assaulting women while working as a licensed London taxi driver.
To each victim, he spun a lie about how he had won thousands of pounds on the lottery or at the casino and invited them to toast his success with a glass of champagne.
Many accepted, not realising that Worboys had spiked their drinks with sedatives.
Mr Justice Silber dismissed applications brought against Inceptum Insurance Company Limited, formerly known as HSBC Insurance (UK) Limited, on a preliminary issue of it was liable to pay damages because Worboys' crimes were committed in his insured taxi.
None of the victims were in court to hear the judgment delivered. The £150,000 in legal costs will be met by the victims' insurers.
The judge expressed the "greatest sympathy" for the women "in the light of the horrifying experiences that they suffered at the hands of Worboys", but said his duty was to "follow the appropriate legal principles".
The women had asked the judge for a declaration that "upon the claimant obtaining a judgment against Mr Worboys for damages and interest and/or costs in respect of the matters complained of", the insurers were "liable to pay to the claimant such judgment sum together with any interest due thereon".
During the hearing of the action in April, Edwin Glasgow QC, for the passengers, told the court: "The fundamental issue in these cases is whether personal injuries caused by a taxi driver's assaults on a passenger, during the course of a journey, were 'caused by or arose out of the use of a vehicle on a road' for the purposes of compulsory insurance as required by the Road Traffic Act 1988."
Mr Glasgow said the key to resolving that issue was "the role that the taxi and the taxi driver played in the events which occurred".
He added: "It is our submission that the use of the taxi and the part that it played in the attacks that occurred during the course of the journeys was essential and material."
The QC told the court: "The taxi did not just happen to be at the place where the assaults occurred. It was the symbol of security which seduced these young women to believe they were safe."
The taxi became the place where the women were "falsely imprisoned", where Worboys made up his mind he was going to attack them, where they were poisoned - and it "provided the means" by which the attacks could take place.
Worboys used his taxi as a "lure" to unsuspecting young women who were tricked into believing their safety was ensured by two things - the black cab and the licensed driver.
Each of the claimants was a passenger in Worboys' taxi in 2007 or 2008.
Mr Glasgow said Worboys was "clearly liable to the claimants for his intentional tortious conduct".
His liability to each of them was "in respect of the bodily injury caused to her by, and/or arising out of, the use of his vehicle on the road".
The second defendant - the insurers - "agreed to and did insure Mr Worboys, pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1988 in respect of his liability to the claimants for these matters".
The move was contested by the insurers.
Andrew Bartlett QC, for the insurers, argued Mr Glasgow was 'stretching' the requirements of the Act too far.
He said: "An insurance policy is, in its nature, a policy that covers fortuities not deliberate acts.
"These acts have got nothing to do with what the road traffic act is for.
"His use of the taxi provided him with the opportunity for his crimes and helped put him in a position where he could choose to assault the claimants.
"It also provided the location for the assaults. But it was not the cause of the injuries. They were caused by Worboys's deliberate acts.
"Lots of people have taxis and do not commit crimes."
He announced that Worboys' use of the vehicle at the material times was not a use insured by the policy issued by the insurers.
The judge ruled that the insurers were not liable "to pay to a claimant any sum payable pursuant to the assumed judgment to be obtained by her against Worboys, or any specified part thereof".