Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 21, 2003

On the evidence as a whole, the judge should have made a finding of contributory negligence and split liability for injuries suffered by the claimant in a road traffic accident equally between the parties.Appeal by the defendant ('M') from the decision of HH Judge McIntyre sitting in the Milton Keynes County Court on 7 March 2003 determining a claim against her for damages for personal injuries sustained by the claimant ('P') in a road traffic accident. The accident occurred whilst P was riding his motorcycle along a single carriageway road in Northamptonshire. M was driving a people carrier travelling in the same direction as P and was at the front of a line of three cars. The route that the vehicles took passed a field in which a motor cross event was being held. M approached the field on her right along a straight stretch of road with a 60 mph speed limit. P had started to overtake the line of vehicles and as he overtook her car, M turned right into the field and struck P. P's case was that his manoeuvre of overtaking the vehicles was a perfectly safe manoeuvre. He claimed that there was no indication that M was intending to turn right and that he had first appreciated any intention by her to do so when he had seen her brake lights engage, but by then it was too late. M's case was that she drew up to the gateway in a normal way and had slowed and indicated to make her move. The judge concluded that M had failed to keep a proper look out by failing to have seen P coming from behind her whilst overtaking the line of traffic. He found that that failure was sufficient to establish primary liability. On the issue of contributory negligence the judge found that P's overtaking manoeuvre was a safe move and whilst accepting that M did indicate to turn right, the judge found that that indication was a split second before she turned. Accordingly the judge found fault in M's failure to indicate in time and her failure to keep a proper look out and therefore dismissed the claim of contributory negligence. This was M's appeal from that decision on the grounds that there was material which showed that P knew that he was approaching the motor cross event and accordingly knew that he had to be alert to the possibility of traffic turning into the field and that, notwithstanding M's failure to indicate, if he had looked properly at her manoeuvre he would have seen that there was a significant chance that she was about to turn.HELD: (1) It was clear on the evidence that was before the trial judge that P did know that there was a motor cross event in the field at the time of the accident, and that the field was on the right hand side of the road on which he was riding. The judge had to approach the case on the basis that P was aware of the event in the field and that a vehicle might have intended to take a right turn into the field. To have overtaken in such circumstances without fully assessing the situation was open to a finding of contributory negligence. (2) Bearing in mind the fact that M knew where the gate entrance was, it was clear from the evidence that she was handling her vehicle in such a way so as to slow down in order to make the turn. M's vehicle must have been travelling in such a way so as to show that she was intending to turn into the field. (3) Accordingly, the judge was bound to ask himself, even without the indicator, whether there was significant material for P to have noticed the possibility of a vehicle turning right. On the basis of the evidence, there was enough material to reach a finding of contributory negligence. Neither party was more to blame than the other, and accordingly liability was split evenly between the parties.Appeal allowed.