W, a taxi driver, sexually assaulted a number of women in his taxi after persuading them to accept alcoholic drinks laced with sedatives. It was accepted that his conduct was deliberate and fell outside his licensed activities as a taxi driver. The victims brought claims against W for damages. The question was whether W’s motor liability insurers, who had issued compulsory motor cover complying with the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), were liable to meet the claims. Silber J held that they were not.

  1. The injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle on a road or other public place in accordance with RTA, section 145(3)(a). The term “arising out of” contemplated more remote consequences than the phrase “caused by”, and it required a relationship between the injuries and the use of the vehicle. In the present case the injuries of the claimants were caused by the criminal acts of W in administering sedatives and then in attempting to or actually assaulting the claimants. They did not arise out of the use of the taxi on a road.
  2. The liabilities incurred by W were not required to be covered by a policy of insurance under RTA, section 145(3)(a). Although cases where the vehicle was used as a weapon were covered by RTA, this was a case in which the injuries did not arise out of the use of the taxi on the road.
  3. The policy itself – which was restricted to “accidents involving your vehicle” – did not extend to deliberate acts. Further, the restriction of cover to “private hire” and to “social, domestic and pleasure purposes” meant that the policy did not apply. It was necessary to assess the essential character of the journey at the time of the occurrence of the incident leading to the claim. By the time of the assaults, the essential character of the journey had changed and the primary purpose had become the assaults.

For further information: AXN v Worboys [2012] EWHC 1730 (QB)