In Cameron v Hussain and Liverpool Victoria, the Court of Appeal held that a claimant is able to sue and subsequently obtain judgment against a party by description rather than name.
In this case, the claimant’s stationary vehicle was hit by a car insured by Liverpool Victoria. The car did not stop but the number plate was obtained by a witness. Investigations revealed that Liverpool Victoria insured neither the owner nor the registered keeper of the car, the risk address was bogus, and the policy had been taken out fraudulently. The claimant brought proceedings against the insured and the insurer. The insured refused to provide the driver’s details. The claimant admitted, during the course of proceedings, that the identity of the driver was unknown and Liverpool Victoria obtained summary judgment against the claimant on the grounds that the driver could not be identified and so judgment could not be obtained against an identified party. The claimant’s application to amend the defendant to “the person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration KG03 ZIZ on 26 May 2013” was refused.
The Court of Appeal considered that there is no distinction between cases where insurers (under section 151 of the Untraced Driver’s Agreement (UTDA)) routinely have to satisfy judgments against wrongdoers who, although their identities are known, can no longer be traced and bringing a claim/obtaining judgment for damages against an unnamed defendant. Under section 151, insurers would be under a duty to satisfy the judgment and so the claimant should be permitted to bring the claim. Further, the Court of Appeal considered that an identified insurer’s liability under section 151 written in respect of a specific vehicle and a specific named insured, should not depend on whether, at the date of issue of court proceedings, or thereafter, the claimant can identify the driver by name. Finally, the Court of Appeal considered this to be a case where it should exercise its powers in accordance with the overriding objective to allow the claimant to bring a claim against an unnamed defendant driver to obtain a judgment which an identified insurer is liable to meet.
Whilst this may appear to “open the floodgates” in terms of claims against unidentified defendants, the scope of the case is specifically limited to circumstances where the vehicle is insured and the insured and registered owner of the vehicle are identifiable. Further, to proceed against an unnamed party can only be permitted where to do so is consistent with the overriding objective.