Knowles v Cullen and others [12.10.12]

Implications

Kennedys was entirely successful in its defence of the First Defendant (D1), acting on the instructions of her insurers, Acromas. The decision highlights the following:

  • Just because a particular driver’s car hits a claimant, it does not necessarily follow that the accident was that driver’s fault. All other potential causes of the accident should be considered. In this case, the accident was found to be the fault of the Second Defendant (D2), who was driving immediately behind D1.
  • An older defendant is not necessarily a negligent defendant. Although D1 was in her eighties, she was found to be extremely spry for her age and a regular driver.
  • Independent witnesses can be important where facts are disputed. In this case, the Judge placed reliance on the evidence of a witness who had been driving in the opposite direction.

Background

In June 2009 the Claimant sustained a serious crush injury to her right leg in the car park of a veterinary surgery. She was visiting the surgery in the course of her work as an inspector for the RSPCA. As she was entering the surgery, she was struck by a Peugeot being driven by D1 and crushed against a brick pillar. Immediately beforehand, D1’s car had been struck in the rear by a Fiat Punto driven by D2. In addition, at some point, a Ford Fiesta driven by the Third Defendant (D3) collided with the rear of D2’s car.

Decision

Mrs Justice Swift held as follows:

  • D1 gave evidence that she prepared for a left turn into Downer Road well in advance, looked in her mirror to ensure there was no traffic immediately behind her, then indicated and slowed down, before beginning to move in a wide arc so as to give herself a clear sight line down Downer Road. This evidence was compelling.
  • D2 belatedly noticed that D1’s car had slowed and was about to turn. She braked but was unable to avoid striking the rear off-side of D1’s car.
  • D3 noticed that D2 was braking hard and began to brake himself. However, his foot slipped off the brake pedal, causing him to stop braking and strike D2’s car in the rear.
  • The Claimant’s accident was caused by the negligence of D2 in colliding with D1’s vehicle. There was no negligence on the part of D1. D3 was negligent in failing to brake so as to avoid colliding with D2’s car, but his negligence was not in any way causative of the Claimant’s accident.