Froom v Butcher

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
[QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION] FROOM AND OTHERS v. BUTCHER [1973 F. No. 1897] 1974 June 21, 24 Nield J.

Road Traffic - Negligence - Contributory negligence - Plaintiff driver not wearing seat belt - Defendant driver solely responsible for accident - Seriousness of plaintiff's injuries increased by failure to wear belt - Whether plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence

The first plaintiff, who did not use a seat belt because he did not like wearing them and because he knew of cases where a driver had been unable to release himself from the belt after an accident, was injured when the car he was driving was in collision with a car driven by the defendant. The accident was caused solely by the defendant's negligent driving but the first plaintiff's injuries would have been slightly less serious if he had been wearing a belt. The first plaintiff, two passengers in the car and the owner of the car brought an action for damages against the defendant, who claimed that the first plaintiff had been negligent in not wearing a seat belt.

On the question whether there had been contributory negligence on the part of the first plaintiff: —

Held, giving judgment for the plaintiffs, that in view of the strongly held conflicting opinions on the safety factor in the wearing of the seat belt and in the absence of any statutory compulsion to wear a seat belt, the omission of the plaintiff to wear the fitted seat belt did not amount to contributory negligence on his part for the injuries sustained by him.

O'Connell v. Jackson [1972] 1 Q.B. 270, C.A. distinguished.

Challoner v. Williams [1974] R.T.R. 221 followed.

Pasternack v. Poulton [1973] 1 W.L.R. 476; McGee v. Francis Shaw & Co. Ltd. [1973] R.T.R. 409; Parnell v. Shields (Note) [1973] R.T.R. 414 and Toperoff v. Mor (Note) [1973] R.T.R. 419 not followed.

The following cases are referred to in the judgment:

Blyth v. Birmingham Waterworks Co. (1856) 11 Exch. 781; 20 J.P. 247.

Challoner v. Williams [1974] R.T.R. 221.

Lochgelly Iron and Coal Co. Ltd. v. M'Mullan [1934] A.C. 1, H.L.(Sc.).

McGee v. Francis Shaw & Co. Ltd. [1973] R.T.R. 409.

O'Connell v. Jackson [1972] 1 Q.B. 270; [1971] 3 W.L.R. 463; [1971] 3 All E.R. 129; [1972] R.T.R. 51; [1971] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 354, C.A.

Parnell v. Shields (Note) [1973] R.T.R. 414.

Pasternack v. Poulton [1973] 1 W.L.R. 476; [1973] 2 All E.R. 74; [1973] R.T.R. 334; [1973] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 439.

Smith v. Blackburn, The Times, May 18, 1974.

Toperoff v. Mor (Note) [1973] R.T.R. 419.

The following additional cases were cited in argument:

Enridge v. Copp (1966) 57 D.L.R. (2d) 239; [1966] C.L.Y.B. 5570.

Mallett v. Dunn [1949] 2 K.B. 180; [1949] 1 All E.R. 973.


On November 19, 1972, the first plaintiff, Harold John Froom, was driving a Jaguar XJ6 motor car (registration no. ERK 888J), owned by the fourth plaintiffs, H. J. Froom Ltd., with his wife, Mrs. Nora Frances Froom, the second plaintiff, as the front seat passenger, and his daughter, Mrs. Jacqueline North Froom, the third defendant, as the rear seat passenger. The first plaintiff was driving the motor car along Gravel Lane, Chigwell, Essex, when a collision occurred between the motor car driven by him and a motor car driven in the opposite direction by the defendant, Brian James Butcher. As a result of the collision the first, second and third plaintiffs suffered personal injuries and consequential loss, and the fourth plaintiffs suffered loss and damage.

By a writ dated October 12, 1973, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had been negligent, the first, second and third plaintiffs claimed damages from the defendant for personal injuries and loss, and the fourth plaintiff claimed from the defendant loss and damage arising out of the collision. By his defence the defendant denied negligence on his part but at the trial he admitted liability in causing the collision. The defendant claimed that all or the greater part of the loss and damage sustained by the first and second plaintiffs were wholly or in part caused by their failure to wear a seat belt and that such failure constituted contributory negligence.

The facts are stated in the judgment.

Peter Ripman for the plaintiffs.

Michael Lewer for the defendant.

NIELD J. In this action there are four plaintiffs. Each claims damages for personal injuries or loss arising as the result of a road accident which took place on November 19, 1972. On that day at twilight the first plaintiff, Mr. Harold John Froom, was driving a Jaguar car belonging to the fourth plaintiffs, H. J. Froom Ltd., along Gravel Lane, Chigwell, Essex, and with him were his wife, Mrs. Nora Frances Froom, the second plaintiff, sitting in the front passenger seat, and his daughter, Mrs. Jacqueline Froom, the third plaintiff, who has resumed her maiden name, who was sitting in the back. As the first plaintiff drove along a motor car driven by the defendant came out from a line of traffic travelling in the opposite direction on to the wrong side of the road and collided, it would seem head on, with the Jaguar.

The claims of the second plaintiff, and of the fourth plaintiff's, have been settled. It is admitted that the defendant was negligent in the driving of his motor car, but it is contended on behalf of the defendant that the first and second plaintiffs were guilty of contributory negligence in that they did not wear the inertia safety belts — I refer hereafter simply to “the belt” —...

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10 cases
  • Hamill v Oliver
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 24 June 1977
    ......Prima facie, therefore, there was contributory negligence on her part. As was held in Froom v. Butcher 1976 Q.B.286, any person who travels in the front seat of a motor car, be he passenger or driver, without wearing an available seat belt ......
  • Oswald France Claimant v The Attorney Genreal of Antigua and Barbuda Director of Public Works Defendants [ECSC]
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • High Court (Antigua)
    • 26 May 2009
    ...By failing to do so, he contributed to his own loss and damage and cannot receive full compensation. Ms. Nelson relied on the case of Froom v Butcher [1976] QB 286 where the plaintiff suffered facial injuries in a road accident caused entirely by the negligence of the defendant. He was not ......
  • Bloom (Kosher) & Sons Ltd v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Lands Tribunal
    • Invalid date
  • Froom v Butcher
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 21 July 1975
    ...she was not negligent. If he had done so, he said that the proportion would certainly not be more than 10%. Next was our present case – Froom v. Butcher – where on 21st June 1974, Mr. Justice Nield hold that omission to wear a seat belt did not amount to nagligence, but if he was wrong, he ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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