Minicab death raises questions over usage

Keeley v Pashen and Wren Motor Syndicate 1202 At Lloyd's (Court of Appeal - 10 November 2004)

Mr Keeley and three friends were drunk and abusive passengers in Mr Pashen's minicab. Mr Pashen asked them to leave and, after they had done so, reversed his car to frighten them. In doing so, he killed Mr Keeley.

Mr Keeley's widow claimed damages for psychiatric injury.

The issue was whether the second defendant insurance company was liable to satisfy judgement against Mr Pashen pursuant to Section 151 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (duty of insurers to satisfy judgement against insured persons). The policy covered the use of the vehicle for "social, domestic and pleasure purposes"; the insurance company said the car was being used "for hire or reward" and this use was excluded under the policy.

The Court of Appeal held the driver was not driving his car for hire or reward at the critical time because his last fare-paying passenger had left the car. Further, the car was being driven for social, domestic or pleasure purposes and thus the insurance policy covered the widow's claim for damages.

COMMENT: While a driver might not be able to recover under an insurance policy in respect of his own criminal acts, that does not prevent an innocent party enforcing their rights against motor insurers under s151 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Here, the essential purpose of the journey of the minicab after Mr Pashen had dropped off the passengers was to go home and the insurance policy, therefore, provided cover. - Luisa Lamb, BLM Manchester.

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