Law Report: Lorry driver liable for accident: Wright v Lodge and another; Kerek v same - Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Parker, Lord Justice Woolf and Lord Justice Staughton), 27 July 1992

A judge was entitled to conclude that the driver of a stationary car, left on the nearside lane of a dual carriageway after breaking down, was 10 per cent liable for the injuries caused to one of her passengers when a lorry, driven recklessly in foggy conditions, collided with the car, but that she was not liable to any extent for injuries caused to two other road users when the lorry, going out of control, then swerved across the central reservation on to the opposite carriageway and overturned.

The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the first defendant, Mr Lodge (the driver of the lorry), against the dismissal by Mr Justice Hobhouse of his claims for a contribution from the second defendant, Miss Shepherd (the driver of the stationary car) to damages which Mr Lodge admitted he was liable to pay to the plaintiffs, Mr Wright, a driver in the opposite carriageway who was injured in a collision with the lorry, and the personal representatives of Mr Kerek, who was killed.

The judge did, however, rule that Miss Shepherd should contribute 10 per cent towards the claim by her passenger, Miss Duncan, in respect of which Mr Lodge also admitted liability. Mr Lodge argued that these conclusions were inconsistent.

Ronald J Walker QC (Hewitson Beck & Shaw, Cambridge) for Mr Lodge; Michael Douglas (Brachers, Maidstone) for Miss Shepherd.

LORD JUSTICE PARKER said that the judge, approaching the matter as if he were a jury and taking a commonsense view, was clearly entitled to conclude that, while there was a connection between the presence of Miss Shepherd's car on the eastbound carriageway and the fact that it was struck from behind, the presence of the lorry in the westbound carriageway was wholly attributable to Mr Lodge's reckless driving.

It was the violence of the swerve and braking which sent his lorry out of control and it was his reckless speed which resulted in the swerve, loss of control, headlong career on to and overturn on the westbound carriageway. It was true that the lorry would not have been there had Miss Shepherd's car not obstructed the nearside eastbound lane. But it was clear from the authorities, including Rouse v Squires (1973) QB 889, that this was not enough. It did not thereby necessarily become a legally operative cause.

Lord Justice Woolf and Lord Justice Staughton concurred.

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