In extremely positive news for insurers, the Supreme Court has unanimously allowed the appeal of Liverpool Victoria ("LV"), finding a claimant is not entitled to bring a claim against an unnamed driver.
The Court found that it would be impossible to bring the proceedings to the attention of the proposed unnamed Defendant, given that he could not be identified. Service of the claim form could not be effected or properly dispensed with.
The Court held that Miss Cameron could have obtained justice by bringing her claim to the attention of the Motor Insurance Bureau under the Untraced Drivers Agreement (UTDA).
Miss Cameron was involved in a hit-and-run collision with a Nissan Micra. The Micra driver was not identified, but the Claimant traced the registered keeper of the vehicle and an insurance policy. The Claimant issued proceedings against both the keeper of the vehicle (incorrectly believing him to be the driver) and the vehicle's insurers.
The insurer denied liability on the grounds the policy did not cover the registered keeper (Mr Hussain) and the driver had not been identified. The insured could not be traced; it was believed he was fictitious and the policy was fraudulent. LV applied for summary judgment.
The Claimant applied to substitute Mr Hussain to ‘the person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle …'.
Both the County Court and High Court found the Claimant could submit a claim under the Motor Insurers' Bureau Untraced Drivers Agreement (UTDA).
Surprisingly, the Court of Appeal overturned these decisions and found in favour of Miss Cameron. This extended insurers' liability to injured claimants under Section 151 of the Road Traffic Act to cases where the identity of the driver is unknown, irrespective of whether the policy (in respect of an identified vehicle) covered the driver. In order to avoid this liability, an insurer would have to demonstrate that it was off-cover, or should never have been on-cover by seeking a declaration under section 152(2) of the Road Traffic Act avoiding the policy.
The Court of Appeal decision would have permitted claimants to amend their claim form to substitute as defendant an unnamed driver, identified only by reference to a specific vehicle driven at a specific time and place.
The Supreme Court granted LV permission to appeal the Court of Appeal decision, and has allowed that appeal.
What can we learn?
A copy of the judgment can be found here