The UK Supreme Court has rejected the Motor Insurers’ Bureau’s (MiB) appeal against a landmark ruling to support road accident victims injured on private land.
The MiB is now liable to pay out to Michael Lewis, who suffered severe spinal cord injuries when he was struck by a vehicle on private land in June 2013.
As the defendant in the original case because the land owner was uninsured, the MiB claimed it was not liable to pay Lewis compensation on the basis that the Road Traffic Act of 1998 only requires compulsory insurance to cover collisions on a “road or other public place”.
This was successfully challenged by Thompsons Solicitors in the High Court in 2018, and upheld in the Court of Appeal a year later, on the basis that Articles 3 and 10 of the sixth EU Motor Insurance Directive state that vehicle owners require compulsory insurance on both public and private land, and this applies to the MiB as it is an “emanation of the state”.
In its appeal before the Supreme Court, the MiB argued that Article 3 of the directive was not “unconditional” and could be used with discretion by EU member states. It also requested for the ruling to be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
The Supreme Court wasn’t persuaded and found for the counter-argument put forward by Thompsons Solicitors, with the support of barristers from Exchange and Monkton Chambers, that the MiB’s position had already been unanimously rejected by the High Court and the Court of Appeal, relying on EU directives that themselves form the basis of the CJEU’s authority, and that as such any further appeal or referral “[did]not raise an arguable point of law”.
David Gauler (pictured), the lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors who represented Lewis, said: “It is now confirmed by the highest court in the land that the MiB cannot exclude victims from compensation if they are injured by an uninsured or untraced driver on private land. Whether this will remain the law after the end of the Brexit transition period—currently set for 1 January 2021—given its reliance on EU directives remains to be seen.”
MiB said in a statement that it pursued the appeal because there were concerns about the ruling’s impact on untraced drivers agreements. Paul Ryman-Tubb, chief technical officer at MiB, explained: “MIB chose to support LV= in this case because we feared the consequences in terms of the increased opportunity for fraud and ultimately the increased costs borne by the motoring public if the previous Court of Appeal decision had stood.”
“Cases in which it is not possible to identify the driver at fault rightfully need to be dealt with under the MiB Untraced Drivers Agreement. This agreement between MIB and the secretary of state contains appropriate and fair provisions to allow claims to be investigated and determined where there is no ‘at fault’ driver to provide another side of the story.”