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Wheeler v. Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary & Ors


Court of Appeal

A judge had been entitled to apportion blame at 50:50 in a negligence claim following a road traffic accident where one party had failed to stop or keep a proper look out and the other had been driving 25mph faster than the speed limit.
The appellant (C) appealed against a judge's decision apportioning blame for a road traffic accident at 50:50.
C had been driving a car with a passenger when his car collided with a police van driven by a police officer (F) which was turning right across oncoming traffic. Both C and his passenger suffered injuries and they brought a claim against the respondent (G) for F's negligent driving. The judge found that F had been negligent in failing to stop before he turned right or to check for oncoming traffic. He further found that C had been driving at 55mph in a 30mph speed limit. He held that both parties had been negligent and apportioned liability at 50:50.
C submitted that the judge had reached an apportionment of liability which was not open to him on the facts and he had failed to give adequate reasons for his decision. C argued that F had failed to stop; keep a proper look out; wait for a safe gap; or have regard to the painted lines on the road. He relied on Grealis v Opuni [2003] EWCA Civ 177, [2004] R.T.R. 7for the proposition that exceeding the speed limit did not make him more negligent.
HELD: (1) The Court of Appeal was reluctant to interfere with the apportionment of liability decided by a judge,West v Wilkinson [2008] EWCA Civ 1005considered. C's submissions underplayed his own negligence in failing to comply with the speed limit and driving 25mph faster. The speed of the car in question in Grealis was in the 30s, Grealis considered. F's negligence was two-fold, not four-fold: he had failed to stop before turning or to keep a proper look out. The judgment was short but it was impossible to think that the judge had failed to have regard to the duties on both parties in assessing their blameworthiness. His apportionment of 50:50 was open to him having heard the witnesses and the Court of Appeal would not interfere with his decision. (2) G was granted his costs of the appeal but both parties had failed to produce a statement of costs as was required underCPR PD 44, so that the court could not summarily assess the costs. In light of the stricter approach to be adopted to the failure to comply with rules followingMitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 1537, (2013) 163(7587) N.L.J. 20, G was ordered to pay the costs of a detailed assessment, Mitchell followed.
Appeal dismissed.
Counsel for the respondent: Christopher Walker.

LTL 18/12/2013

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