Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) in case C-162/13 Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav d.d.
14 October 2014
Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) in case C-162/13 Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav d.d., concerned a request for a preliminary ruling by the ECJ in respect of the interpretation of Article 3(1) of Council Directive 72/166/EEC of 24th April 1972 on the approximation of laws of Member States relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles and to the enforcement of the obligation to insure against such liability.
On 13th August 2007 a tractor to which a trailer was attached was reversing in the courtyard of a farm in order to position the trailer in a barn to access bales of hay which were being stored in the loft of the barn. The reversing tractor with trailer attached, struck a ladder on which Mr Vnuk had climbed, causing him to fall. Mr Vnuk thereafter brought a claim seeking damages with interest thereon against the Insurers of the tractor owner who had taken out compulsory insurance.
Article 3 (1) of the First Directive requires Member States "...to take all appropriate measures to ensure that civil liability in respect of the use of vehicles normally based in its territory is covered by insurance. The extent of the liability covered and the terms and conditions of the cover shall be determined on the basis of these measures".
Article 3(1) is to be read in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the Second Directive (84/5/EEC of 30th December 1983) that "the insurance referred to in Article 3(1) of the (First Directive) shall cover compulsorily both damages to property and personal injuries".
The application of Article 3(1) is read with Article 1 of the Third Directive 90/232/EEC 14th May 1990 that "...the insurance referred to in Article 3(1) [First Directive] shall cover liability for personal injuries to all passengers, other than the driver, arising out of the use of a vehicle".
THE QUESTION REFERRED FOR PRELIMINARY RULING
At first instance, Mr Vnuk's application for compensation was dismissed. At second instance the Court dismissed the appeal lodged by Mr Vnuk distinguishing concepts of damage caused by use of the tractor as a means of transport and damage caused when a tractor is used as a machine or propulsion device.
Mr Vnuk was granted leave to appeal on a point of law against the ruling of the Court of Second Instance relating to the use of the tractor as a vehicle within the meaning of Article 15 of the law on compulsory motor vehicle liability insurance (ZOZP Slovenia). Mr Vnuk submitted that the concept of "use of a vehicle in traffic" could not be restricted to road use; that the tractor and appended trailer formed a unit which did constitute a moving vehicle. The insurance company argued that the use of the tractor was not in its function as a vehicle for road use but for work on a farm. Slovenian law (ZOZP) does not define "use of vehicles". It was the lack of definition of "use" which generated the referral for preliminary ruling.
Inter alia, UK, Germany and Ireland made submissions to the Court seeking to re-open the oral procedure. Those submissions were rejected. Arguments were advanced by Ireland and Germany to the effect that the insurance obligation provided for in Article 3(1) related only to situations involving road use arguing that Article 3(1) does not apply to circumstances such as in the Vnuk case.
The Court recognised the objective of protection envisaged in the First to Third Directives and it held that the view could not be taken that the European Union legislature wished to exclude from the protection guaranteed by those Directives injured parties to an accident caused by a vehicle in the course of its use if that use is consistent with the normal function of the vehicle.
The ECJ ruling therefore of Article 3 (1) must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of "use of vehicles" covers any use of a vehicle consistent with the normal function of that vehicle.
The ruling must give pause for thought to motor insurers within the Union as to the extent of coverage and risk of motor policies, going forward.