Teenage Pedestrians and Contributory Negligence

22 January 2015

Jackson (Appellant/Cross Respondent) v Murray and another (Respondents/Cross Appellants) (Scotland)  

When a young pedestrian is knocked down, the consequences can be catastrophic. The Supreme Court is to decide to what extent a seriously injured teenage pedestrian was to blame for her accident.

Facts

On 12 January 2004, Miss Jackson (then aged 13) was struck by Mr Murray's vehicle as she crossed a country road after alighting from her school bus. Miss Jackson sustained serious injuries which the parties agreed were properly assessed as being valued at £2.25 million. Miss Jackson was initially held to have been 90% to blame for the accident, and this was reduced to 70% on appeal. The action was further appealed to the Supreme Court on 20th October 2014 and judgement is pending.

Issues

The four key issues discussed by the courts below were - the speed Mr Murray was travelling at; his reaction to seeing the minibus parked on the other side of the road; Ms Jackson's movements prior to the accident; and the visibility of Mr Jackson's car as it approached. A decision on these issues was hindered by the delay in bringing the action to trial which meant that witness accounts differed.

The duty of care required of a driver passing a school bus was considered  by the Court of Appeal in Howell Williams -v- Richards Brothers (2008) as ..." first to keep a lookout....then to modify, if necessary his/her driving and lastly to be vigilant for any child stepping out or running out into the road." The Court of Appeal decided that it not realistic to expect that a driver approaching a bus to reduce his speed sufficiently to avoid a child running out at the last minute. On the facts of Jackson,  Murray's  speed of 50 mph was considered too high, and he had made no attempt  to slow down. On the facts, if he had been travelling at 40mph, expert evidence indicated that the accident could have been avoided. However, the Scottish Court of Session made it clear that the primary cause of the accident was Miss Jacksons attempt to cross the road without taking proper care at night and in poor visibility. The Court of Session made a distinction between cases where a pedestrian is visible in a roadway and cases where a pedestrian suddenly moves in front of a car. In some such "darting out" cases, a court can hold that the driver was not to blame at all - see Stewart -v- Glaze ( 2009) EWHC 704 as an example.

The High Court in Northern Ireland recently considered the  contributory negligence of a 20 year old pedestrian in McCaughey v Mullan [2014] NIQB 132 (19 December 2014) at 60%.


For further information contact Kevin Shevlin Partner, Murphy O'Rawe.  Telephone 028 9032 6636

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