contract law Cases

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Albert v Motor Insurers Bureau [1971] 3 WLR 291



Q regularly gave his co-workers lifts to and from work in his car over a period of more than eight years, and received payments for this. On one of these trips, there was an accident in which one of his passengers and co-workers were killed. Albert (A) brought a claim against the driver under The Fatal Accidents Acts 1846-1908, and was awarded damages. When Q failed to meet the order, A brought action against the Motor Insurer’ Bureau (MIB). The action was brought against MIB on the basis that Q was acting on a hire/reward basis when giving lifts for remuneration for the purposes of section 203(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1960.


At the court of first instance, the court found that the actions of the driver did not amount to that which engaged section 203(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1960. On appeal, the actions of the unofficial driving/lift giving actions of the driver were considered for whether they could amount to a business activity. If such a business relationship could be found, the MIB would be liable for damages.


In deciding the appeal, the court considered Coward v Motor Insurers Bureau [1963] 1 QB 259 and Connell v Motor Insurers Bureau [1969] 2 QB 494.

The appeal was allowed – it was held that the actions of the driver went beyond mere social kindness, and the activities amounted to a business activity, and as such the vehicle in which the victim was killed was a vehicle for which passengers had been carried for hire pursuant to section 204(4) Road Traffic Act 1960. This was held to be true, as the passengers were aware of the expectation of pay for the service, and as such the lack of contract between the parties was irrelevant.