Highway Code breach irrelevant in speeding motorbike judgement

Goad v Butcher (Court of Appeal 22 February 2011)

The claimant, Mr Goad, was riding a motorbike when he collided with a tractor and trailer being driving by Mr Butcher. Mr Butcher was turning right from a main road into a side road at a slow speed. The road looked clear and he took the turn early, which resulted in him cutting the corner and his vehicle crossed over the wrong side of the highway.

Mr Goad was travelling at excessive speed and, despite seeing the tractor, he was unable to stop in time. He lost control and collided with the vehicle driven by Mr Butcher.

Mr Goad brought a claim for damages for personal injury against Mr Butcher. The trial judge considered the circumstances surrounding the accident and came to the conclusion that Mr Butcher was not negligent in making the turn as he did. The claim for damages was dismissed on the basis that Mr Goad had caused the accident through his excessive speed. The judge dismissed the breach of the Highway Code as irrelevant.

The case was subject to an appeal. The breach of the Highway Code was an issue raised on appeal by the claims counsel.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Having considered all the fact, it found that Mr Butcher had not been negligent and agreed that the accident was caused as a result of the claimants excessive speed.

Lord Jackson gave a dissenting judgement. He felt Mr Butcher had been negligent in cutting the corner on the facts. He agreed the Mr Goad had been the substantial cause of the accident: he would allow the appeal, but reduced damages by 75% for contributory negligence.

While a breach of the Highway Code may be indicative of negligence in a civil for damages, it is by no means guaranteed. The Courts will look at all the surrounding circumstances before deciding whether a party was negligent.