Successful claim in negligence and false imprisonment for claimant who jumps from moving taxi

Background

In Hicks v. Young, the Claimant sustained very severe brain injuries when he jumped from a moving taxi. He brought claims in negligence and false imprisonment, represented by Stephen Killalea QC and Robert Hunter, in a High Court trial. The case was widely reported in the local press and received national coverage on ITV and BBC for example. 

The 23-year-old Claimant engaged the Defendant to drive him, and his then girlfriend, to his home address. On arrival, the Claimant stood up to alight from the taxi and as he did, the Defendant drove off back towards the taxi rank, where he initially had collected the Claimant because the driver thought the Claimant was not going to pay his fare. Around ¾ mile from the home address, the Claimant jumped from the taxi which was then travelling at 20 mph or more.

The decision

Mr Justice Edis found that the Defendant had breached his duty of care to the Claimant. The Claimant was held captive in the taxi but it was simply not suitable for conveying prisoners safely. It would have been unsafe whether the detention of the passenger was lawful or not. However, the Claimant made a serious error of judgement about the level of risk in jumping. He gave judgment for the Claimant in negligence for 50% of his claim.

In cross-examination the Defendant accepted that he may have been mistaken in his belief that the Claimant was trying to avoid paying the fare. Mr Justice Edis found that the Claimant had been unlawfully imprisoned. However, he held that the Claimant’s injuries were too remote from his unlawful imprisonment. The Judge held that adverse consequences of an attempt to escape are recoverable only insofar as they are the result of a reasonable and necessary act intended to bring the imprisonment to an end. In the circumstances, damages for false imprisonment were limited to the period of confinement before the Claimant jumped from the taxi.

Practical implications

The case is of wider interest because Mr Justice Edis applied a different test of causation to the claims in false imprisonment and negligence. In doing so he held that the partial defence of contributory negligence would not be available in false imprisonment with the consequence that success for the Claimant on this allegation would result in recovery in full. The case is likely to be regarded as an important authority on causation in intentional torts, where the law is still to be determined by the higher courts.

The Judge granted both parties permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Stephen Killalea QC and Robert Hunter represented the Claimant instructed by James Davies and Deborah Rose of Irwin Mitchell, Bristol. The full judgment can be accessed by clicking here but also on Lawtel, Westlaw and Lexis.

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