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Capps v Miller [1989] 1 WLR 839 Court of Appeal

The Claimant, a motorcyclist was stationary in the centre of the road about to turn right into his drive when the Defendant crashed into him from behind. The Defendant was speeding and had been drinking. At the time of the incident, the Claimant had been wearing a crash helmet, but it was not fastened. The helmet came off in the collision and he suffered serious head injuries. The trial judge allowed full compensation to the Claimant and made no deduction for contributory negligence stating:

"The Court of Appeal has indicated that one should not make apportionments of contributory negligence for percentages less than 10 per cent, that is to say, that there should only be a reduction of the plaintiff's damages where his responsibility is significant, 10 per cent or above. On that basis, I unhesitatingly reject the suggestion that I should find contributory negligence on the plaintiff's part here, in an accident of this severity caused by the driver in the defendant's state. The plaintiff being in no way responsible for the accident, it seems to me that the sole responsibility for the accident which the defendant has must in all the circumstances carry with it responsibility for the damage caused by the accident"

The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the defendant on the finding of no reduction in damages and reduced the damages by 10%. The trial judge placed too much emphasise on the degree of blameworthiness for the accident and ignored the fact that the Claimant had breached a statutory regulation in not fastening his helmet and this contributed to his injuries. There was no absolute rule of denying contributory negligence under 10%. Had he not been wearing a crash helmet at all they would have reduced the damages by 15%.
Back to lecture outline on contributory negligence in Tort Law