Three family members brought a Court action against a supermarket company and a delivery company as the employers of the drivers of two vehicles which collided on a Perthshire road in 2012 (Morag MacKenzie and Others v Asda Group Ltd and DHL Services Ltd (2018) CSOH 102).
Two vehicles collided on a roadway after a supermarket delivery van turned from a side road onto the main road in front of an approaching heavy goods tanker. The van driver then commenced a right hand turn manoeuvre off the main carriageway as the tanker then attempted to overtake the delivery van. Although the impact between the two vehicles was described by the Court as a "glancing blow," the tanker was deflected off its course and veered off the carriageway, over a grass verge and into the garden of a property owned by one of the pursuers.
The Court held that the supermarket van driver was 75 percent to blame for the collision. The van driver chose to enter onto the main carriageway from the side road in the knowledge that traffic was approaching along the main carriageway, and, importantly, also in the knowledge that he would be shortly turning off the main carriageway. The van driver ought to have ascertained the position of the tanker and the other traffic behind when planning both manoeuvres, and considered the impact of both manoeuvres on that traffic. The Court also held that the van driver failed to check his mirrors adequately before turning off the main carriageway. If he had checked his mirrors, he would have been altered to the presence of the tanker and what it was doing.
The Court held that the tanker driver was 25 percent to blame as he "materially contributed" to the accident by carrying out a hazardous overtaking manoeuvre in overtaking the supermarket delivery van when he did, failing in his duty to drive with reasonable care.
The Court also rejected an argument that the tanker driver did not owe a duty of care to the pursuers as the owners of neighbouring property: it held that it was reasonably foreseeable that, if the tanker was driven in the manner it was, it could cause harm to both other road users and to "neighbouring proprietors" such as the pursuers. It was "fair, just and reasonable" that the tanker driver owed duties to both categories of individuals.
The Court awarded the pursuers damages totalling £100,000.
This case serves as a reminder that the duty on drivers to take reasonable care is a broad duty.
The duty extends beyond duties in relation to the immediate manoeuvre being carried out. In the exercise of reasonable care, drivers must plan ahead and consider what they intend to do next after they have carried out a particular manoeuvre. Drivers must consider the possible impacts of their intended next manoeuvres upon other drivers, otherwise they can breach the duty to take reasonable care.
This case also demonstrates that Courts will hold that drivers owe duties of care not only to other road users, but also to the proprietors of neighbouring properties that potentially could be damaged by their vehicles, reiterating established legal principles about who the duty of reasonable care is owed to.