13.7.09  

A well-known driver of historic racing cars, Willie Green, suffered serious injuries in the Goodwood Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival meeting on 17 September 2005. Mr Green was driving a 1948 Maserati when he lost control of the car at Woodcote Corner and collided with a tyre barrier. He blamed the organisers of the meeting, the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC), the owners of the Circuit, Goodwood, and also Sunset & Vine, the television production company that was filming the event for ITV. He alleged his car had collided with a kerb camera placed on the grass just on the inside of the second apex of Woodcote Corner, he was not aware that the camera was there and this was the cause of the crash.

Held: After a lengthy hearing at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Ouseley held that the case against all the Defendants failed. Whilst the presence of the camera made a minor contribution to the accident, it was reasonable to put the camera in that position and, had approval been sought from the relevant governing body, the RAC Motor Sports Association (RAC), this would have been given. In addition, knowledge of the presence of the camera would not have affected how Mr Green drove.

The Judge held that, had there been negligence in placing the camera where it was, or allowing it to remain there, and had that negligence caused or contributed to the accident, Mr Green would still have been in his view 80% to blame for the accident, because he was driving too fast.

He also found that it was not reasonably foreseeable that contact between Mr Green’s Maserati and the camera, which was designed to be driven over, and was only one inch high and had sloping sides, could have caused the loss of control which resulted in the accident. The claim also failed for this reason, even though it was held to be reasonably foreseeable that, if struck, the unfixed camera could become a “lethal missile” by flying through the air and striking vehicles and/or their drivers.

Comment: Whilst Sunset & Vine reasonably, but erroneously, believed that consent for the camera and its location had been granted by Goodwood, and formal approval had been obtained from the RAC by Goodwood and/or BARC, this was not the case. Both Sunset & Vine and BARC were found to have been negligent in failing to obtain this approval. However, as this omission did not cause or contribute to the accident they were not liable. This decision emphasises the need for claimants to prove not only negligence and damage but also a causal link between the two.