Greene v. Sookdeo & Ors, Court of Appeal - Privy Council, July 14, 2009, [2009] UKPC 31

Resolution Date:July 14, 2009
Issuing Organization:Privy Council
Actores:Greene v. Sookdeo & Ors

9[2009] UKPC 31Greene v. Sookdeo & Ors (Trinidad & Tobago) [2009] UKPC 31 (14 July 2009)Privy Council Appeal No 64 of 2008Edrick Greene Appellantv.(1) Ferosa Sookdeo(2) Beacon Insurance Company Limited(3) Errol Hassanali(4) Goodwill General Insurance Company Limited RespondentFROMTHE COURT OF APPEAL OFTRINIDAD AND TOBAGO- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -JUDGMENT OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIALCOMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCILDelivered the 14th July 2009- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Present at the hearing:- Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood Lord Mance Sir Jonathan Parker - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -[Delivered by Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood]About 6 am in the morning on 23 May 2002 a calamitous accident occurred on the Valencia stretch of the Sangre Grande-Port of Spain Eastern Main Road in Trinidad. A ten ton Nissan dump truck (``the truck'') being driven eastwards by Errol Hassanali (``the truck driver'') collided with a maxi-taxi (``the taxi'') being driven westwards by Ian Charles (``the taxi driver'') causing it devastating damage. The truck weighed 22,400lbs, some seven times the weight of the taxi. There were eleven passengers in the taxi including the appellant, Edrick Greene, many of them seriously injured in the collision, one of whom later died of his injuries.In March 2004 Mr Greene duly brought an action claiming damages for personal injuries and consequential loss against the owner of the taxi (the first respondent), the truck driver (the third respondent) and (as is said to be the practice in Trinidad and Tobago) their respective insurers (the second and fourth respondents). The claim alleged negligence against both drivers (the taxi owner being, of course, vicariously liable for any negligence on the part of his driver). It was agreed that liability should be determined as a preliminary issue in the action and it was agreed also that this determination would govern the claims of all those who had been injured in the collision.On 29 April 2005, having heard evidence and submissions on a number of earlier dates, Tiwary-Reddy J gave an oral decision holding the truck driver 75% to blame for the collision, the taxi driver 25% to blame. Some fifteen months later, on 18 July 2006, the learned judge gave written reasons for her decision. The taxi owner and her insurers appealed against the finding of blame on the taxi driver's part and on 31 January 2008 the Court of Appeal (Warner, John and Weekes JJA) allowed their appeal, holding the truck driver to be wholly liable for the collision. Mr Greene now appeals to the Board by leave of the Court of Appeal.On the face of things it should not matter to Mr Greene one way or the other which of the two drivers was to blame for this accident or in what proportion. Alas, however, it matters greatly. The truck driver's insurers have proved to be insolvent and, unless Mr Greene's appeal succeeds, none of the injured passengers (nor the deceased passenger's dependants) will recover any damages in respect of their claims. If, of course, the taxi driver is held to blame in any degree, they will recover in full from the owner's insurers.With those introductory paragraphs their Lordships turn in a little more detail to the circumstances of this accident and the evidence given with regard to it.The Valencia stretch is a long, straight length of single-carriageway road, asphalt-surfaced to a width of 5.8m (some 19 feet) and bordered (at any rate on the southern, westbound, side) by a flat verge (or shoulder) some 108 feet wide. The road is subject to a 50 mph speed limit. West of the point of collision the road inclines upwards for westbound traffic (the taxi's direction of travel) to a crest some hundred yards ahead. (Westbound drivers are warned of the approaching crest by a ``Danger Ahead''...

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