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 , 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.