RUNNING INTO THE PATH OF DANGER – RTA: Gupta v Armstrong & Anor (QBD 22/05/2014) (Judge Ralls QC)

PI_Ruwena_Khan Ruwena Khan

Despite his leg being run over by a coach, a pedestrian’s claim for general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity was dismissed.  The coach driver had not been negligent – the pedestrian had run into the road when the coach was turning left and tripped over the front wheel.  Whilst the court was sympathetic towards G, D1 had not been at fault.

This case is a reminder of the importance of expert and independent evidence in road traffic matters – indeed their assistance often cannot be overstated. 

The Facts

The Claimant pedestrian (‘G’) brought a claim against the First Defendant coach driver (‘D1’) and the Second Defendant coach company (‘D2’) for damages for personal injury.
G, a student, was making his way from one campus to another. D2 provided coaches for that purpose. D1 was driving a coach that G had wanted to board and had run over G’s leg.

G’s Case

G was on the opposite side of the road to D1 directly opposite his window and had made eye contact with him and waved to signal that he wanted to board the coach. G then walked into the road and approached the front door of the coach, again alleging that he made eye contact with D1. D1, however, pulled away and reached the end of the road and began turning left and then stopped in the middle of the road. G, assuming that D1 had stopped for him, banged on the side of the coach and on the nearside passenger door and made eye contact with D1, but D1 allegedly looked away and then reversed. G stepped back tripping over the front wheel and the coach ran over his leg.

D1’s Case

D1’s case was that he had driven towards the junction and prior to turning left had checked his mirrors, checked for oncoming traffic and taken care to ensure that he did not mount the curb as he turned. D1 stated that he had been travelling at less than four miles per hour when he turned left in one continuous motion. He felt a bump and got out of the coach and saw G on the ground.  D1 stated that he had not stopped/reversed.

 

Independent Witnesses

RTA lawyers will know the incredible importance of independent witnesses to corroborate an account put forward by one of the parties – often small details can be missed by drivers and/or they have very subjective views of the accident circumstances.  Moreover, trial judges are often left in a situation where it is one person’s word against another and although both drivers/pedestrians hold a genuine belief in their account, one usually has to be incorrect.  In a case such as this, where an accident occurred between a pedestrian and a very large vehicle, the need for independent evidence for the Ds was rather imperative.

Fortunately for the Ds, four eyewitnesses gave broadly consistent evidence supporting D1’s case which was that:

  • D1 had pulled out slowly into the road to turn left;
  • G had run into the road and tapped the side of the coach;
  • D1 had not stopped or reversed;
  • G tripped on the wheel of the coach falling backwards; and,
  • Then coach ran over him.

Expert Evidence

Again, perhaps a rather obvious point, but expert evidence is also essential in a major road traffic claim.  Road traffic collision reports can provide the court with an objective and clear overview of the accident circumstances and provide detailed photographic and locus evidence to assist the trial judge in assessing liability.

It should be remembered of course that buses usually have CCTV cameras in place and such evidence should be disclosed at an early stage of proceedings and ideally pre-issue.

In this matter expert evidence stated that G would have to have been very close to the coach before he would have been seen by D1 and that he would not have been in D1’s view when he was by the front wheel.  This contradicted G’s account.

The Court’s Decision

The accident had not been D1’s fault. It was found that:

  • G had seen D1 driving away and had run along the pavement to catch up with him.
  • No eye contact was made.
  • D1 stopped at the give way sign and pulled out slowly at a maximum of four miles per hour to turn left.
  • G ran towards the front of the coach but would not have been visible until he was close enough to touch it.
  • G tapped the coach and he was by the front wheel and had attempted to go towards the front door as the coach was turning left.
  • If G had reached the front door it would have been the rear of the front door and he would have only been there for a fraction of a second.
  • Had D1 spotted him at that point there would not have been enough time to avoid the accident; at that stage it was inevitable.
  • G then stepped back tripping over the front wheel, fell into the road and D1 drove over his leg.

In all the circumstances it was held that D1 had not been negligent. He had taken care to look and use his mirrors before moving off, concentrated on the traffic, and ensured that he did not encroach on the pathway when turning. No eye contact had been made with G. Had D1 seen G when eye contact was supposedly made on two occasions, he would have stopped. However, the court held that D1 had not been negligent in not seeing or hearing G. G had tapped the window and not banged it and there was likely to have been noise inside the coach. Whilst the court was sympathetic towards G, D1 had not been at fault.

Accordingly, the claim was dismissed. If it had been necessary to consider contributory negligence, the instant case would have been one of those exceptional cases where the claimant would have been deemed to be more than 50 per cent negligent.

RUWENA KHAN

6th June 2014

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