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Neil Turner v. (1) Russell Green (2) Motor Insurers Bureau


QB Division

The owner of a motorcycle was not liable for personal injuries sustained by the rider of the vehicle when it was involved in a road traffic accident as, on the evidence, the injured person and not the owner had been driving at the time of the accident.

In a claim for damages for personal injury sustained in a road traffic accident involving a motorcycle, the court was required to determine whether the claimant (T) or the first defendant (G) had been driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. T had been either the driver or pillion passenger on a motorcycle that had mounted a pavement and collided with a wall, as a result of which T had sustained injuries. It was accepted that the accident must have been caused by negligent handling of the vehicle and that if G had been the driver he was liable to T. T submitted that at the time of the accident he had been travelling as a passenger on the motorcycle which was being driven by G. He alleged that at a pub G had offered to sell him his motorcycle and that he had then gone on a test drive as G's pillion passenger. T stated that he had drunk only one pint before the accident and contended that he had been travelling from east to west. G denied that he had been driving the vehicle and adduced evidence from witnesses stating that they had seen G at the pub after T had left. The evidence of the police officer who had found T lying near to the motorcycle was that no other riders had been found in the area. The police officer believed, contrary to T's evidence, that the motorcycle had been travelling from west to east and both he and hospital notes indicated that T had smelt of alcohol. There was further evidence that whilst G had falsely reported that the motorcycle had been stolen, when a police officer took a statement from him at his home, he had noticed no signs that G had been injured.

HELD: On the day of the accident, T had been drinking much more than he had admitted and it was highly likely that he had been unfit to drive. Having arrived at the pub, he had met G and asked to ride the motorcycle. He had been given permission by G to take it onto the road and had left the pub riding the vehicle alone and driven a route which had taken him from west to east. As he had approached a bend in the road he had lost control, probably as a result of the influence of alcohol and his lack of any recent experience of riding a powerful motorcycle, and collided with the kerb and a brick wall. At the time of the accident, G had been at the pub from where he had been given a lift home and had falsely reported his motorcycle as having been stolen. In reaching that conclusion, the evidence of the witnesses who had placed G at the pub throughout was accepted. The evidence that there had been no-one else at the scene immediately after the accident and that G had suffered no injury was also compelling. T's claim failed accordingly.

Judgment for defendants

(Charles Woodhouse for the 1st Defendant)

[2008] EWHC 3133 (QB), LTL 8/1/2009

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