Challoner v Williams

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date06 November 1974
Judgment citation (vLex)[1974] EWCA Civ J1106-3
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Date06 November 1974

[1974] EWCA Civ J1106-3

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

The Court of Appeal

(Civil Division)

(From: Mr. Justice Shaw - London)


Lord Justice Megaw

Lord Justice Ormrod and

Mr. Justice Cumming-Bruce

Patrick Bernard Challoner
- and -
Peter Williams
First Defendant
- and -
Robert Anthony Croney
Second Defendant

Mr, STUART SMITE, Q.C. and Mr, J.P. HARRIS, Q.C. (instructed by Messrs. Lawrence, Graham & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Appellant (First Defendant).

Mr. STEPHEN BROWN, Q.C. and Mr. CHRISTOPHER JAMES (instructed by Messrs. Gascoin & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Second Defendant).


On New Year's Eve, 1971 - that is, on the brink of 1972 - at about 10 o'clock at night, there was a collision between two cars in a road known as Icknield Way, near Tring. The plaintiff, Mr. Patrick Bernard Challoner, who at the time of the accident was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car driven by Mr. Robert Anthony Croney, was injured. He brought an action against two defendants, alleging negligent driving against each of them. The first defendant was Mr. Peter Williams, who was the driver of the car with which Mr. Croney's car collided. The second defendant was Mr. Croney.


The issue of liability was tried separately. The issue of damages has still to be tried, and we are not concerned with it on this appeal. On the issue of liability, Mr. Justice Shaw delivered judgment on the 3rd April of this year. He held that both" defendants were liable, and, on the issue of the apportionment of liability between them, he held that they were equally to blame.


The first defendant, Mr. Williams, appeals. The plaintiff is in no way concerned in this appeal or its result, since no one suggests that both defendants can escape liability to the plaintiff, and, as we have been told, it is a matter of no practical importance to the plaintiff whether the judgment in his favour should be against one or other of the two defendants, or against both, as it is now.


The first defendant, to whom I shall refer hereafter as Mr. Williams, contends in this appeal that he was not guilty of negligence at all, and that the whole blame and liability for the accident rests on the second defendant, to whom I shall refer hereafter as Mr. Croney. Even if the whole blame does not must with Mr. Croney, Mr. Williams says that Mr. Croney's proper share of the blame is far larger than 50 per cent., and Mr. Williams's share is far less than 50 per cent. For Mr. Croney it is submitted beforeus that the learned judge was right. Mr. Croney was indeed, it is submitted, blameworthy, and his fault was a cause of the accident and of the plaintiff's injuries; but Mr. Williams, it is said, was equally to blame.


The plaintiff, as I have said, was a passenger in Mr. Croney's car, a Vauxhall Viva. Those two, together with a Mr. and Mrs. Dawes, had attended a staff party at a hotel in Oxford that New Year's Eve. They had decided to go to another party, which was taking place in Luton. So they set off from Oxford in Mr. Croney's car, heading for Luton. Shortly before the accident, the car stopped, and a somewhat remarkable incident occurred which is narrated by the learned judge in his judgment, but I do not think that it affects the issue in the appeal. Soon thereafter, the car having started again, as it was travelling along Icknield Way, driven by Mr. Croney and with the plaintiff beside him in the front of the car, Mr. Croney saw in front of them, as he said in his evidence, the lights of two cars travelling in the same direction as he was, that is eastwards, along Icknield way.


In fact there were three cars in a procession. If Mr. Croney's evidence is true in this respect, he saw only the lights of the last two out of the three. Those cars were making their way in convoy, also coming from Oxford. The persons in them had met in Oxford, I think at a hotel or a public-house, and were going to a dance. In the leading car, which was a Morris 1000 — that was the car which was ultimately involved in the collision with Mr. Croney's car —- there was Mr. Williams driving, with a Miss Household as a passenger. In the second car, a Triumph Herald, Mr. Morbey was driving, with Miss Critchley as a passenger. In the third car, an Austin Estate car, Mr, Vinden was driving, with Miss Dunham as a passenger. When they had left Oxford, it was thought that Mr. Williams knew the way to the place where the dance to which they wished to go was to be held. Hence, Mr. Williams ledthe convoy. In fact, Mr. Williams had led the convoy astray. He took a wrong turning off the A.41 road, which leads from Aylesbury to Tring, and he found himself, followed by the other two cars, in Icknield Way, driving east along it. He realised his mistake, and he decided to find a suitable place in which he could turn to go back to the A.41.


The Icknield Way is about 24 feet wide at the place with which we are concerned; but there is a dip in the road — it changes from level to downhill, or, if it be already going downhill as one goes eastwards along it, the downhill is accentuated in gradient. It is clear that That dip existed somewhere in that part of the road which is relevant for the purposes of this action. What is not clear, certainly from the evidence as we have seen it, is precisely where the dip was in the road. It would seem that it was somewhere not very far back - and when I say "not very far", I mean probably not more than 50 yards, and possibly less than 50 yards - from a road junction. That road junction is on the right as one drives along Icknield Way in the way that these cars were going - that is, eastward. The junction is a junction with a road called Icknield Crescent. Icknield Crescent runs out to the south of Icknield Way and, as its name implies, it goes round in a crescent and comes back into Icknield Way again. It seems to be a road which is in effect a service road for a housing estate or housing development close to Icknield Way. The distance between the two junctions at which Icknield Crescent joins Icknield Way is some 50 yards. That is, if one is coming along Icknield Way and driving eastward, one comes first to the dip which I have mentioned, then to the first, or westward, junction with Icknield Crescent. and then, some 50 yards further along, to the eastward junction with Icknield Crescent. These two junctions are both on one's right.


Mr. Williams, having discovered his mistake as he drove alongIcknield Way, decided to turn and to go back. He looked for what he regarded as a suitable place in which he and the other two following him might turn in order to drive back along Icknield Way, He saw what I have called the westward junction with Icknield Crescent. and from there he saw ahead of him the eastward junction. He decided that the eastward junction would be an appropriate place in which he and the others following him might achieve their turn round, so as to go back westward along Icknield Way. He intended, no doubt, to swing round across Icknield Way, into the mouth of Icknield Crescent. and there complete the turn.


Having made that decision, according to his evidence, which, as I understand it, was accepted in its entirety by the learned judge as being truthful and reliable, Mr. Williams put on his right-hand indicator lights to show that he was proposing to turn to the right. He slowed down, in order to put himself in a position to make the turn, and, having up to that time been driving in the centre of the left-hand carriageway, he moved out towards the centre of the road.


According to his evidence, as it was given and quoted by the learned judge in his judgment, Mr. Williams looked in his rear mirror when he indicated that he was going to turn — that was when he decided, as he approached, that he was going to turn into Icknield Crescent — and, according to Mr. Williams, he looked in his rear mirror again before he actually turned. As I understand it, that means that his second look in the mirror was within a very short space of time before he developed the turning movement to the right across Icknield Way. He did not stop completely; he was going slow. As I say, according to his evidence he-looked in his mirror for traffic behind him, not once, but twice. According to his evidence, on the occasions when he looked he saw behind him only the lights of the two cars following in convoy behind him - that is, his friends' cars. So he went into his right-hand turnacross the road, moving slowly — as I say, not having stopped, When he got some distance across the other side of the road, perhaps about half-way across the part of the road which was the appropriate part of the road for westbound traffic, there was a tremendous crash, and into his car drove Mr. Croney's car. The result was that the plaintiff was hurt....

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