[2008] LTL 01.09.08

Credit hire claim for over £34,000 fails because Claimant uninsured at time of accident.

A lorry driven by the Defendant's driver hit the Claimant's parked and unoccupied car. Liability admitted. The Claimant did not have third party compulsory motor insurance. The vehicle was written off and the Defendant paid the Claimant miscellaneous expenses and damages representing the pre-accident value of the car. In addition, the Claimant claimed recovery and storage and costs of hiring a replacement vehicle for 341 days. The issue was whether the hire claim, due to the offence of driving without insurance (s143 Road Traffic Act 1988), fell foul of the principle of ex turpi causa - a claim based upon illegality. The Claimant submitted that for the principle to apply the facts had to be inextricably linked to the primary facts which constituted liability in negligence. His vehicle was in no way improperly parked, and not having insurance was in no way causative of the accident.

Held: The Claimant had demonstrated a willingness to commit the offence of driving without insurance and had obtained a road tax disc whilst being uninsured, which in itself was a criminal offence. The Claimant therefore fell within the ambit of ex turpi causa and the hire claim was therefore dismissed.

Comment: The credit hire claim amounted to over £34,000 and so it is easy to understand why the Defendant contested this case to trial. Lack of hearing time meant that the judgment was limited to the illegality point - arguments about the reasonableness of a claim at this level were not considered.

It should be noted that the Claimant was able to recover some parts of his claim, in particular the capital value of his car. What he was precluded from recovering was the loss of use of the vehicle, on the basis that any use of the vehicle during the period in respect of which the claim was made would have been an unlawful use.

This is another example of consideration of the principle of ex turpi causa in recent months. In the case of Gray v Thames Trains Ltd [2008], which was reported in our June edition, a Claimant who suffered PTSD following the Ladbroke Grove rail crash was able to recover damages for loss of earnings for the period after he stabbed a stranger to death, on the basis that the manslaughter did not break the chain of causation. Whilst the principle of ex turpi causa is one that should be borne in mind by defendants and insurers, its application is not straightforward and will not always result in a successful defence.