16 September 2019


International Cases

Cameron (Respondent) v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd (Appellant)

United Kingdom

20.02.2019

Motor Vehicles

A person who cannot be identified, cannot be sued under a pseudonym or description, unless circumstances are such that, service of claim form can be effected or properly dispensed with

The question at issue on present appeal is in what circumstances, is it permissible to sue an unnamed Defendant. On 26 May 2013, Ms Bianca Cameron was injured when her car collided with a Nissan Micra. It is common ground that, the incident was due to the negligence of the driver of the Micra. The registration number of the Micra was recorded, but the driver made off without stopping or reporting the accident to the police and has not been heard of since. The registered keeper of the Micra was Mr Naveed Hussain, who was not the driver but has declined to identify the driver and has been convicted of failing to do so. The car was insured under a policy issued by Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd to a Mr Nissar Bahadur, whom the company believes to be a fictitious person. Neither Mr Hussain nor the driver was insured under the policy to drive the car.

Ms Cameron initially sued Mr Hussain for damages. The proceedings were then amended to add a claim against Liverpool Victoria Insurance for a declaration that, it would be liable to meet any judgment obtained against Mr Hussain. The insurer served a defence which denied liability on the ground that, there was no right to obtain a judgment against Mr Hussain, because there was no evidence that he was the driver at the relevant time. Ms Cameron’s response was to apply in the Liverpool Civil and Family Court to amend her claim form and particulars of claim so as to substitute for Mr Hussain "the person unknown driving vehicle registration number. District Judge Wright dismissed that application and entered summary judgment for the insurer. Judge Parker dismissed Ms Cameron’s appeal. But a further appeal to the Court of Appeal was allowed by a majority.

Gloster LJ delivered the leading judgment. She held that, the policy of the legislation was to ensure that the third-party victims of negligent drivers received compensation from insurers whenever a policy had been issued in respect of the vehicle, irrespective of who the driver was. The court had a discretion to permit an unknown person to be sued whenever justice required it. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal (i) gave Ms Cameron permission to amend the claim form so as to sue the driver under the above description; (ii) directed under CPR 6.15 that service on the insurer should constitute service on the driver and that further service on the driver should be dispensed with; and (iii) gave judgment against the driver, as described, recording in their order that the insurer accepted that, it was liable to satisfy that judgment.

Ordinary service on the insurer would not constitute service on the driver, unless the insurer had contractual authority to accept service on the driver’s behalf or to appoint solicitors to do so. Such provisions are common in liability policies. The driver, if sued in these proceedings, is entitled to be heard in his own right.

It is plain that, alternative service on the insurer could not be expected to reach the driver of the Micra. It would be tantamount to no service at all, and should not therefore have been ordered unless the circumstances were such that it would be appropriate to dispense with service altogether.

There is a power under Civil Procedure Rules (6.16 CPR) "to dispense with service of a claim form in exceptional circumstances." It may be appropriate to dispense with service, even where no attempt has been made to effect it in whatever manner, if the Defendant has deliberately evaded service and cannot be reached by way of alternative service under CPR 6.15. This would include cases where the Defendant is unidentifiable but has concealed his identity in order to evade service. However, a person cannot be said to evade service unless, at a minimum, he actually knows that proceedings have been or are likely to be brought against him. A court would have to be satisfied of that before it could dispense with service on that basis. An inference to that effect may be easier to draw in the case of hit and run drivers, because by statute drivers involved in road accidents causing personal injury or damage to another vehicle must either "stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address and also the name and address of the owner and the identification marks of the vehicle", or else report the incident later. But the mere fact of breach of this duty will not necessarily be enough, for the driver may be unaware of his duty or of the personal injury or damage or of his potential liability.

A person, such as the driver of the Micra in the present case, who is not just anonymous but cannot be identified with any particular person, cannot be sued under a pseudonym or description, unless the circumstances are such that the service of the claim form can be effected or properly dispensed with. The order of the Court of Appeal is set aside and order of District Judge Wright reinstated. The appeal is allowed.

Tags : Accident Compensation Liability

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