Mansfield v Weetabix [1998] EWCA Civ 1352

NEGLIGENCE  - DUTY OF CARE – STANDARD OF REASONABLE CARE EXPECTED OF DRIVERS – DRIVERS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

Facts

D appealed against a judgment holding them liable in negligence following an incident in which a lorry belonging to D, and driven by one of their employees (T), crashed into C’s shop, causing extensive damage. Unbeknownst to T, he suffered from malignant insulinoma, a condition which resulted in a hypoglycaemic state which had impaired T's ability to drive and that, it was accepted, had caused the accident. It was also accepted at first instance that T, had he been aware of his condition, would not have continued to drive.

Issue

Whether a driver suffering from a condition which impairs his/her ability to drive should be held to the same standard as the reasonably competent road user or, alternatively, whether the effect of the condition could be taken into account when determining the relevant standard of care.

Held

In finding for D the Court of Appeal held that the condition of T had to be taken into consideration when determining the applicable standard of care to be expected of him. This was a civil case, not a criminal prosecution, and so it need not be proven that T was acting as an automaton, i.e. without any awareness of his actions. That would be to impose a test of strict liability, whereas T was merely under a duty to attain the standard of a reasonably competent driver who is unaware he is suffering from a condition that impairs his ability to drive.