W, a taxi driver, sexually assaulted a number of women in his
taxi after persuading them to accept alcoholic drinks laced with
sedatives. It was accepted that his conduct was deliberate and fell
outside his licensed activities as a taxi driver. The victims
brought claims against W for damages. The question was whether
W's motor liability insurers, who had issued compulsory motor
cover complying with the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), were liable
to meet the claims. Silber J held that they were not.
The injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle on a
road or other public place in accordance with RTA, section
145(3)(a). The term "arising out of" contemplated more
remote consequences than the phrase "caused by", and it
required a relationship between the injuries and the use of the
vehicle. In the present case the injuries of the claimants were
caused by the criminal acts of W in administering sedatives and
then in attempting to or actually assaulting the claimants. They
did not arise out of the use of the taxi on a road.
The liabilities incurred by W were not required to be covered
by a policy of insurance under RTA, section 145(3)(a). Although
cases where the vehicle was used as a weapon were covered by RTA,
this was a case in which the injuries did not arise out of the use
of the taxi on the road.
The policy itself – which was restricted to
"accidents involving your vehicle" – did not
extend to deliberate acts. Further, the restriction of cover to
"private hire" and to "social, domestic and pleasure
purposes" meant that the policy did not apply. It was
necessary to assess the essential character of the journey at the
time of the occurrence of the incident leading to the claim. By the
time of the assaults, the essential character of the journey had
changed and the primary purpose had become the assaults.
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Contractors and principals should ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage instead of relying on indemnity clauses.
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