By Joanna Hastie
Court of Appeal confirms that a Claimant injured in the course of intentional criminal action is not entitled to recover damages.
- D was a licensed taxi driver in Manchester who picked up 6 passengers, 2 of whom were the 17 year old Claimants in this case.
- The group had decided amongst themselves that they would ‘jump’ the taxi and not pay for the fare.
- D stated the fare whilst stationary at a set of red traffic lights at which point three of the passengers jumped out of the taxi and ran off. As the lights changed D then proceeded to drive with the remaining passengers still in the taxi (the two Cs plus another). The taxi doors were open and D was aware the remaining passengers were not wearing seatbelts.
- As the taxi turned a corner, C1 Beaumont attempted to jump out whilst in transit, hit his head on the road and sustained a serious brain injury.
- C2 O’Neill also attempted to jump out of the taxi whilst it was moving and sustained serious injuries.
- The Claimant’s brought a claim in negligence against D stating that D should not have driven off with the doors open when he knew the Cs were not wearing seatbelts.
- The claim failed at first instance as the judge concluded it had not been reasonably foreseeable that the Cs would be so foolish as to jump from the car when moving. The Cs appealed.
- On appeal the court found that D had been in breach of duty to his passengers as it was reasonably foreseeable that the Cs would attempt to move from the vehicle whilst moving, given the criminal actions of their counterparts.
- As to causation and the ex turpi causa maxim, Lord Hoffmann’s suggestion in Gray v Thames Trains Ltd  UKHL 33,  1 AC 1339applied: although the damage would not have happened but for the tortious conduct of the defendant, it was caused by the criminal act of the claimant.
- Even though the C’s injuries would not have happened but for the tortious conduct of D, in reality the C’s injuries were caused by their own criminal conduct. Hence, there should be no recovery, Gray considered (see paras 18, 22, 25 of judgment).