Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED September 23, 2003

In a personal injury claim the defence of inevitable accident on medical grounds failed where the evidence showed that the first defendant's employee was a fit but careless driver who had negligently driven his bus onto the wrong side of the road.Trial on liability in a claim for damages for personal injury. On 23rd November 1999 the claimant ('S') was injured when a single-decker bus owned by the first defendant ('Selkent') crashed into shop premises. The bus, driven by an experienced Selkent employee ('B'), collided with a car driven by the Part 20 defendant and second defendant ('K') and then hit the shop. S was trapped between the bus and the shop wall. B claimed, and it was not challenged, that he had retro and post-traumatic amnesia and that his recollection of stopped at the point where he turned into the road on which the crash occurred and only returned after the collision. The issue of liability turned on the determination of two factual matters, namely: (i) whether K's driving of his car in any way interfered with the path of the bus and was the cause, or partial cause, of the bus hitting the shop; and (ii) whether the bus hit the shop and injured S as the result of inevitable accident.HELD: (1) There was no reliable evidence to persuade the judge that K had made a U-turn into the path of the oncoming bus. The Part 20 claim against K failed and S's claim against K as second defendant also failed. (2) It was for Selkent to show, on the balance of probabilities, that the collision between the bus and S was caused by a medical event in B that rendered him temporarily incapable of driving the bus. The inescapable fact on the evidence was that before there could be any question of B suffering either a neurological or cardiac problem, he had driven the bus onto the wrong side of the road on a collision course with K's car, which was lawfully and properly on its correct side of the road. On the evidence B was a fit but careless driver when he drove on to the wrong side of the road, struck K's car and then crashed into the shop. Nothing in Selkent's evidence began to establish a defence of inevitable accident on medical grounds and that defence failed. (3) It followed therefore that there must be judgment for S against Selkent, and judgment for K in the Part 20 proceedings and against S.Judgment accordingly.

[2003] EWHC 2135 (QB)