Applicable law where accident involved a number of persons and vehicles

This case concerns an accident in France in which an Englishman was killed (and his colleague badly injured). An uninsured car driven by a French national hit one of the Englishmen's car (which was registered and insured in the UK) which then hit a recovery truck which was registered and insured in France. One of the issues was which law was applicable to the accident, which had involved a number of persons and vehicles. This issue fell to be determined under the Rome II Regulation (the accident having taken place after 11th January 2009).

Article 4(1) of the Regulation provides that the applicable law will be the country where the damage occurs (here, France). However, Article 4(2) provides that "where the person claimed to be liable and the person sustaining the damage both have their habitual residence in the same country…the law of that country shall apply". The argument was raised that, because of the use of the singular "person", Article 4(2) only applies where one person brings proceedings against another person and they are both habitually resident in the same EEA state. That argument was rejected by Dingemans J who opined that: "The proposition that a coach crash involving a number of different Claimants should be excluded from the effect of Article 4(2) simply because there is more than one injured person is not sustainable". Accordingly, English law might apply to the claim of the widow of one of the Englishmen against the other.

Article 4(3), though, can be used to return to a governing law that might have been required by either Article 4(1) or 4(2). It provides that, where it is clear from all the circumstances of the case that the tort is manifestly more closely connected with another country, the law of that country shall apply. The judge held that Article 4(3) could (and did) apply to return to French law in this case, even though Article 4(2) had excluded it, having taken into account all the circumstances of this case.