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Mr Gray was approaching a complicated junction which had 11 traffic lights controlling the flow of traffic. He was familiar with the junction and turned right across the carriageway when he knew that the traffic lights for oncoming vehicles would be red at that time. He therefore did not check to see whether any cars were approaching.
Meanwhile Mr Botwright was in fact approaching from the carriageway that Mr Gray was turning into, having driven through a red light. A collision occurred.
AT FIRST INSTANCE
Whilst it was Mr Gray that brought the claim, the judge at first instance, perhaps rather surprisingly, found entirely against him. He concluded that notwithstanding making a finding that Mr Botwright jumped a red light, he was not going much faster than the speed limit and as such (!) that the accident was entirely Mr Gray’s fault.
THE COURT OF APPEAL
Having been unsuccessful before the Circuit Judge, Mr Gray appealed to the Court of Appeal. He argued that, firstly, the district judge was wrong to find that G was solely responsible for the accident when he had found that B had been negligent.
The Court of Appeal concluded that Mr Gray had made a positive decision not to check for traffic when he turned right because he had inferred that the traffic light would be red and decided that no vehicles would be approaching. The decision to cross the carriageway without looking was an act of sheer folly and Mr Gray was indeed negligent for failing to check for oncoming traffic. However Mr Gray’s actions were not the sole cause of the accident. Mr Bortington was in place that he shoudn’t have been at the moment of impact. By entering the junction through a red light Mr Bortington also created a danger which was within the scope of the duty that he owed to other road users when he crossed the red light. Even at 30mph Mr Bortington was travelling too fast and should have slowed down to take account of oncoming traffic. The onus was on him to be particularly careful when driving through the junction as he should not have been there at that time.
The Court of Appeal concluded that both parties had driven badly and liability was apportioned 50:50.
It is suggested that this decision by the Court of Appeal is a clear reminder to the lower courts of the dangers of relying on any kind of general principles in road traffic cases. The court should always look at the particular circumstances of the case. In this particular example it is submitted that it beggars belief that the judge at first instance felt able to make a finding of negligence against Mr Bortwright and then go on in his judgment to absolve him of any formal responsibility.
By Kate McKinlay