John Clarke -v- Phoebe Clarke and Motor Insurers' Bureau: High Court

The Claimant and the First Defendant were brother and sister-in-law.

There was a long-standing feud between the two families. The Claimant's brother was married to the First Defendant.

The incident occurred in a narrow lane near Swanley in Kent. The Claimant arrived at the scene in a car driven by his brother-in-law ("A"). The car contained a variety of weapons. The First Defendant arrived in a Jeep driven by her husband ("B"). They both parked their vehicles in the gravelled entrance to a farm.

A fight ensued during which "A" used a baseball bat to break "B's" arm. The Claimant used a machete to break the front passenger window of the First Defendant's car and shouted threats at her. The evidence indicated that the Claimant had used cocaine prior to the incident.

The First Defendant moved across to the driver's seat and drove the Jeep through a post and rail fence into an adjoining paddock. The Claimant was struck and injured by the Jeep. His injuries left him paraplegic. "A" pleaded guilty to violent disorder, but the Defendant and her husband ("B") were acquitted of grievous bodily harm.

The Claimant pursued a claim for compensation against the First Defendant. As she had no insurance, the Motor Insurers' Bureau ("MIB") was joined as the Second Defendant.

The MIB submitted that:-

  • The Defendant was acting in self-defence
  • The Claimant's claim should be defeated by a defence of ex turpi causa because he had been holding a machete and had attacked the Claimant's jeep
  • Under clause 5 of the Uninsured Drivers Agreement, the MIB is only liable to satisfy an unsatisfied judgment in respect of a "relevant liability". The Claimant suffered his injury in a paddock, which was not a "road or other public place" as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 145(3)(a))

It was held by the Judge that:-

  • Self-defence could not be made out
  • Ex turpi causa was rejected - the Claimant's conduct was reprehensible but the defence was not made out with regard to the question of proportionality between the Claimant's and First Defendant's conduct (see Gray -v- Thomas Trains Ltd [2009])
  • The gravel road was a public place, but the paddock was private land
  • On the balance of probabilities the Claimant had been struck in the paddock and not on the gravel area
  • The claim was therefore not in respect of a "relevant liability" and the MIB were not required to meet it.

The claim was dismissed against the MIB.

A full transcript of the Judgment is awaited.