Froom v Butcher revisited

On 23rd July 2015 the Court of Appeal refused the Claimant's application for permission to appeal against the decision made by HHJ Platts QC in the landmark case of Pearson v Anwar, unreported, QBD 14/10/14.  Mr Pearson suffered catastrophic injuries rendering him tetraplegic when a taxi in which he was a passenger was involved in a collision.  Mr Pearson had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.  At a trial limited to the issue of contributory negligence, HHJ Platts found that if the Claimant had been wearing a seatbelt he would have suffered a relatively modest whiplash injury to his neck giving rise to only 3-6 months of symptoms.  In line with the guidance given by Lord Denning MR in Froom v Butcher [1976] 1 QB 286 the Claimant argued that his contribution should be limited to 15% because, although the belt would have made a considerable difference to the nature and extent of the injuries, he would have suffered some injury in any event.  The Judge disagreed:  he noted that the Claimant's tetraplegia was caused when the Claimant's head came into contact with the A-post of the car and the agreed evidence was that that impact would not have occurred if the Claimant had worn a seatbelt.  The injuries which the Claimant sustained were therefore so qualitatively and quantitatively different from those he would have sustained if restrained that a reduction of 25% was appropriate, as contended for by the Defendant.

The Court of Appeal did not grant permission for the Claimant to appeal this decision which is of real significance for anyone involved in road traffic collision cases and a reminder to all that the guidelines in Froom v Butcher are not to be treated as statute in each and every case.

Neil Block QC represented the successful Defendant and was instructed by Robert Jones of Ellisons Solicitors.