Court of Appeal considers issues of causation and apportionment where negligence led to a “coincidence of location”

Clyde & Co for respondent

In the case of Whittle v Bennett [2006], the Court of Appeal referred to a “coincidence of location  fallacy”. In that case,  A had sought to argue that, had B not been negligent earlier on (by  failing to leave an appropriate stopping distance whilst driving), the accident in question would  not have occurred as B would not have been at that particular spot  in the road when the accident  (which was not his fault) occurred. The Court of Appeal had dismissed an argument that there should  be an apportionment of liability in such circumstances: many factors had contributed to  the fact that B had been in the particular  location when the accident had occurred (eg not having been stopped  at traffic lights earlier on,  as he might have been) and the issue of apportionment simply did not arise.

That argument was considered again by the Court of Appeal in this case. A had been involved in a  collision when he failed to check for oncoming traffic. The Court of Appeal held him to be  negligent but also concluded that B (with whom he had collided) should not have been where he was  at the moment of impact (B having jumped a red traffic light) and hence contributory negligence was  assessed at 50 per cent. This case was distinguished from Whittle v Bennett on the basis that the accident which actually occurred was the very thing which the red  light had been intended to prevent. Furthermore, the onus was on B to be particularly careful when  driving through the junction as he should not have been there at all at that time.