Richardson v Butcher (Queen's Bench Division — 12 February 2010)
The claimant, aged nearly nine, emerged from an alley onto Stead Lane opposite its junction with Rothesay Terrace.
Stead Lane is an urban B road, dark but with adequate street lighting. The claimant ran from the end of the alley into Stead Lane despite calls from his friend and the approaching car from his left.
The defendant was driving along Stead Lane at less than 30mph. Having slowed when a car in front turned left into Rothesay Terrace, she gently accelerated and changed up a gear. As she crossed the Rothesay Terrace junction, she saw the claimant standing still to her offside and crouched. Having no time to steer, she braked but struck him.
Both road traffic accident experts agreed the defendant had an unlimited view from 50 metres and drivers' reaction times vary from 1 to 1.5 seconds. They estimated that the claimant would reach the point of impact in 1.8 seconds and, as he had stopped, it was held that he was in view for at least 2 seconds. The speed at impact was 25mph and she would need to have seen him at 25.3 metres to stop in time.
The judge did not accept that the defendant was still focused on the car turning left; having accelerated and changed up a gear her attention should have been on the road ahead. She would have avoided hitting the claimant if she had braked 0.75 seconds earlier and the court found that there was no reasonable explanation why she failed to see him earlier.
Liability was established since the defendant failed to take reasonable care by failing to keep a proper lookout. Contributory negligence was not alleged in view of the claimant's age but if he had been an adult a reduction of 75% would have applied.
The case illustrates that the standard of a reasonable driver is a high one where pedestrian minors are seriously injured. Contributory negligence was not argued although if the claimant had been a year or so older, as in the 2009 case of Toropdar v D, arguably a reduction could have applied.
Louisa Martindale, BLM Liverpool
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