Beaumont & O'Neill v David Ferrer  EWCA Civ
It's often said that crime doesn't pay, but the question
the English Court of Appeal had to consider here was whether the
maxim ex turpi causa non oritur actio (that a claimant cannot seek
a legal remedy if it arises from his own criminal act) applied in
what was a relatively minor crime of failing to pay a taxi
On 27 July 2009, Josephn Beaumont and Lewis O'Neill, both
17, decided to go into Manchester City centre with four other
friends. It had already been decided by the group as a whole that
they would "jump the taxi" into Manchester; in other
words, once at their destination, they'd run off from the taxi
The taxi driver, David Ferrer, picked them up in his Nissan
minivan. This had three rows of seats, though to access the back
row, the middle seats had to be tipped forward. Beaumont and
O'Neill sat in the back row, while three of their friends sat
in the middle row, and one in the front passenger seat.
As he approached their destination, he stopped at traffic lights
and advised them it was £10. Immediately, the three in the
middle row, who had access to the offside sliding door, jumped out
and ran. As they did so, Beaumont was clambering over the seats of
the middle rows, and O'Neill also had his leg over, both ready
to join their companions.
At this stage, the lights had changed to green, and Mr Ferrer
began driving off. As he turned the corner, Beaumont either fell or
jumped from the taxi backwards, landing on his back and hitting his
head. He sustained a serious brain injury. Moments later,
O'Neill also chose to jump out, and sustained a serious injury
– albeit less serious than Beaumont.
In the lower court, the judge had held that both Beaumont and
O'Neill could have taken their seats, put their seat belts on,
and if they had done so, they would not have been injured. They had
taken part in a joint criminal enterprise to "jump" the
taxi. They were barred from recovery by the ex turpi maxim.
On their appeal, Beaumont and O'Neill argued that Ferrer
knew that they were going to try and follow their colleagues in
jumping the taxi. Instead of resigning himself to the loss of the
fare, which he ought to have done, he drove off, knowing they were
not wearing seatbelts and the door was open. Further, the criminal
enterprise was so trivial as not to engage to ex turpi maxim, and
in any event the criminality did not cause the injury, but was
"merely the circumstance in which Mr Ferrer's negligence
Ferrer accepted that he had been negligent in driving off after
the first three had left the taxi, since a door was open and they
were not wearing seatbelts. But the jumping from the taxi was an
intervening cause and there was no liability. In any event, the ex
turpi principle did apply, and barred Beaumont and O'Neill from
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
While it was correct that Ferrer had been in breach of his duty
of care to his passenger in deciding to drive off, in reality, the
incident was caused by Beaumont and O'Neill's part in the
criminal act of making off without payment. That being the case,
there should be no recovery.
The Court acknowledged that the law in relation to the ex turpi
maxim has received differing opinions in relation to its scope from
the Supreme Court in recent times (in Hounga v Allen  1 WLR
2889 and Les Laboratories Services v Apotex Inc  AC 430). In
this case, however, running off without payment was neither
collateral to the civil claim nor were there any public policies
which outweighed the principle that those engaged in the commission
of a crime should not recover for what happens to them as a result
of their illegal conduct. The current divergence of opinion
therefore did not affect the decision.
Common sense dictates that the law should not compensate someone
for injury caused by their own criminal conduct, and this case is a
further demonstration of that.
However, in considering previous decisions, it is clear that the
scope of the well-used maxim is open to debate, and in a situation
where the criminal conduct is merely incidental to the negligent
act of a defender, the outcome may well be different.
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