Dr Nicholas Bevan

Dr Nicholas Bevan

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


In Gray v Gibson [2014] All ER (D) 35 (Mar) the Court of Appeal overruled a first instance decision which found the claimant 40% contributory negligent for a head on collision between her car and a lorry that had veered over to her side of the road. 

The accident happened on a road with one lane in either direction.  The vehicles were travelling in opposite directions.  The judge found that the lorry driver had allowed his vehicle to cross over onto the claimant’side by more than two feet as her car approached.  She had been travelling at 30 mph. 

The Court of Appeal ruled that the DJ had been wrong to adopt a starting position that assumed that both parties were equally to blame for the accident.  The correct approach was first to determine whether the defendant was liable and only then to consider whether the claimant was also negligent. 

The extempore judgment spares the usual homily about the Court of Appeal only rarely interfering with a first instance apportionment of liability under s1 Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 – since, these days, this seems to be honoured more in the breach.  As it was, the Court held that the claimant’s speed was not causative: what caused the accident was the defendant’s carelessness in crossing onto the claimant’s side of the road.  She could not be blamed for failing to anticipate his negligence by driving slower. 

The defendant was fully liable.

For another recent case along these lines see: Bennett v Southwell [2013] EWHC 2382 (QB).

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