Case Alert - [2016] UKSC 52

Supreme Court rules on applicable law governing assessment of damages where English national injured by uninsured driver in Greece

Weightmans for appellant, BL Claims for respondent

The claimant, an English national, was injured by an uninsured driver in Greece who was driving a car which had been registered there. She therefore made a claim against the Motor Insurer's Bureau under Regulation 13 of the 2003 Regulations (which implemented the fourth motor insurance directive and provides, broadly, that the MIB shall compensate the injured party as if the accident had occurred in Great Britain). Liability was admitted but there was a dispute as to whether the measure of compensation payable should be assessed in accordance with Greek or English law (in this case, the level of damages would be higher if assessed by English law).

The same issue was considered by the Court of Appeal in Jacobs v Motor Insurers' Bureau . There, it was held that English law governed the assessment of damages (and it was said that the Rome II Regulation would not change this position). Gilbart J held that he was bound by the decision in Jacobs (even though he believes it was wrongly decided). The Supreme Court has now unanimously allowed the appeal from that decision, finding that Greek law governs the assessment of damages.

It was held that "The inference is that, to whichever special provision of the Fourth Directive the victim of a motor accident may have to have recourse, the compensation to which he or she is entitled is and remains the same. It is the same compensation as that to which the victim is entitled as against the driver responsible, or his or her insurer, or, that failing, as against the guarantee fund of the state of the accident. .. On the analysis accepted by the Court of Appeal in Jacobs, however, the measure of compensation could vary according to the happenchance of the route to recovery which the victim chose or was forced to pursue". Regulation 13 should be read as having a "purely mechanical or functional operation" and it was unnecessary for the Supreme Court to consider arguments about the Rome II Regulation. There was also no need to contemplate a reference to the European Court of Justice because "the scheme of the Directives is clear, and that they do not leave it to individual member states to provide for compensation in accordance with any law that such states may choose. On the contrary, they proceed on the basis that a victim’s entitlement to compensation will be measured on a consistent basis, by reference to the law of the state of the accident, whichever of the routes to recovery provided by the Directives he or she invokes".