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Highway Code breach irrelevant in speeding motorbike judgment

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Goad v Butcher

(Court of Appeal – 22 February 2011)

The claimant, Mr Goad was riding a motorbike when he collided with a tractor and trailer being driven by Mr Butcher. Mr Butcher was turning right from a main road in to a side road at a slow speed. The road looked clear and he took the turn early which resulted in him cutting the corner and his vehicle crossed over to the wrong side of the highway. Mr Goad was travelling at excessive speed and despite seeing the tractor he was unable to stop in time. He lost control and collided with the vehicle driven by Mr Butcher.
Mr Goad brought a claim for damages for personal injury against Mr Butcher. The trial judge considered the circumstances surrounding the accident and came to the conclusion that Mr Butcher was not negligent in making the turn as he did. The claim for damages was dismissed on the basis that Mr Goad had caused the accident through his excessive speed. The judge dismissed the breach of the Highway Code as irrelevant.
The case was subject to an appeal. The breach of the Highway Code was an issue raised on appeal by the claimant’s counsel.  
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Having considered all the facts they found that Mr Butcher had not been negligent and agreed that the accident was caused as a result of the claimant’s excessive speed.
Lord Jackson gave a dissenting judgment. He felt that Mr Butcher had been negligent in cutting the corner on the facts. He agreed that Mr Goad had been the substantial cause of the accident; he would have allowed the appeal but reduced damages by 75% for contributory negligence.

Whilst a breach of the Highway Code may be indicative of negligence in a civil claim for damages, it is by no means guaranteed. The courts will look at all the surrounding circumstances before deciding whether a party was negligent. - Hannah Beddis, BLM Leeds
This law report first appeared in Post Magazine on 31 March 2011

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of Berrymans Lace Mawer LLP. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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