On January 12 2016 the Supreme Court handed down a judgment in Jalal Mruh Cilawee v Shirbit Insurance Ltd (8238/14). The judgment determined that an explosive device which explodes following its attachment to a vehicle does not constitute an accident as defined in the Road Accident Victims Compensation Law 1975.
The Israeli legal system adopts the no-fault concept regarding road accident victims. Therefore, plaintiffs injured while driving a car or in a car prefer their injuries to be classified as road accidents.
The plaintiff left his residence, entered his vehicle, started the engine and commenced driving. An explosive device attached to the vehicle exploded suddenly and the plaintiff was injured. The court had to decide whether this event should be regarded as a road accident.
The transportation risk test is used to determine the causal connection between the use of a vehicle and damage sustained. The plaintiff argued that the attachment of an explosive device to a vehicle is a common occurrence in Israel and should therefore be considered as a typical risk of people who use vehicles. The plaintiff further contended that according to the law the following presumption applies:
"An event caused as a result of an explosion or the vehicle catching fire, caused by an element of the vehicle or by a material essential for the vehicle's ability to operate, even if resulting from a cause outside the vehicle, will be deemed as a road accident."
The explosion ripped through the floor of the vehicle, which is an essential component for its operation.
The case was first heard by the Haifa District Court, which ruled that based on the definition of Section 1 of the Road Accident Victims Compensation Law, factual causality and legal causality connections should exist between the bodily damage caused and the use of the vehicle for transportation. It was ruled that in this case a factual causality connection existed, but a legal causality connection did not, as the vehicle was only the scene of the event and there was no legal causality connection between the use of the vehicle and the damage caused. It was further ruled that the chances of an explosive device being used against an innocent civilian are rare and highly unexpected. Further, the court reviewed the purpose of the law and ruled that it was not meant to cover casualties of criminal acts. It also addressed the argument of presumption and ruled that it did not apply, as the explosion had occurred due to the explosive device and not because of any key component of the vehicle.
The plaintiff filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in which he repeated the arguments made before the district court. The Supreme Court supported the district court ruling, stating that there was no legal causality connection between the use of the vehicle and the damage sustained. Further, the Supreme Court reviewed the question of whether there was factual causation.
An Eighth Amendment was added to the Road Accident Victims Compensation Law in 1990 stating that the basic definition of a vehicle accident is "an occurrence in which bodily damage is caused to a person as a result of the use of a motor vehicle for the purpose of transportation".
Under the amendment there should be a connection between bodily damage sustained and the use of a vehicle for transportation. This causation is similar to the causation demand in common torts laws. In this case it should be asked whether the transportation element was crucial for the event to occur.
The court ruled that driving a vehicle fulfils the definition of using a vehicle for transportation. However, the explosion of the device and the bodily injuries caused to the plaintiff were not the result of the vehicle being used for transportation, as the device was detonated by remote control and could have been exploded without the vehicle's movement.
The detonation of the device could have taken place at any point (eg, while the plaintiff was standing in proximity to the vehicle). In the case at hand there was no causal connection between the use of the vehicle and the damage sustained. The connection was merely a coincidence.
The court concluded that because the device was detonated by remote control using a cellular mechanism, this case should be distinguished from others where detonation occurred following the ignition of a vehicle's engine.
The appeal was rejected.
For further information on this topic please contact Em-lee Polakiewicz at Levitan, Sharon & Co by telephone (+972 3 688 6768) or email ([email protected]). The Levitan, Sharon & Co website may be accessed at www.levitansharon.co.il.
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