A recent ruling by the New South Wales Court of Appeal in
O'Neill v Liddle has confirmed that a driver's
failure to keep a proper lookout is legally significant, even where
the other driver fails to comply with the road rules.
The driver of the first car, Liddle, paused briefly, then drove
through a 'give way' sign into an intersection. She did not
see O'Neill's car approaching from an adjacent street
because of glare from the sun.
O'Neill acknowledged that she had seen Liddle but assumed
that she would stop at the 'give way' sign. Acting on this
assumption, O'Neill continued through the intersection and the
two cars collided. Liddle's car rolled and her arm was crushed.
Liddle sued O'Neill for her injuries.
The trial judge assessed Liddle's liability for the accident
at 55%. O'Neill appealed, arguing that the trial judge had not
given enough weight to Liddle's failure to take reasonable
care, and that Liddle's liability should be assessed at
Court of Appeal's decision and
The Court of Appeal confirmed the trial judge's decision on
liability. If O'Neill had kept a proper lookout, she would have
had time to avoid the collision through a minor change in her speed
and direction. Liddle had taken a calculated risk in entering the
intersection without full view of the adjacent street and so had
contributed to the collision.
The Court of Appeal applied the principles set out by the High
Court in Sibley v Kais, that:
one driver's breach of the road rules is not conclusive of
their liability in negligence
drivers cannot act under the assumption that other drivers will
exercise reasonable care
drivers must keep a proper lookout so that they are in a
position to react to any contingencies, no matter how unlikely they
This ruling emphasises the high standard of care expected of all
drivers. Failure to take reasonable care will always have
consequences, and the law does not permit motorists to operate on
the assumption that everyone else will follow the rules.
The New South Wales Court of Appeal judgment can be found here.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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