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Froom v Butcher

[1976] 1 QB 286; [1975] 3 WLR 379; [1975] 3 All ER 520;

[1975] 2 Lloyd's Rep 478; [1975] RTR 518; (1975) 119 SJ 613

NEGLIGENCE, CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE, CAUSE OF THE DAMAGE,

CAUSE OF AN ACCIDENT, ACCIDENTS, ROAD SAFETY, INJURIES,

MEASURE OF DAMAGES, ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS

Facts

The plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt whilst driving because he did not like seatbelts and because he had seen drivers being trapped after a crash because they wore a seatbelt. After a crash, the plaintiff suffered head and chest injuries and a broken finger. Had he worn his seatbelt, the head and chest injuries would have been avoided. The crash was entirely the defendant’s fault. The defendant contended that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence. The Queen’s Bench held in favour of the plaintiff on grounds that there was no statutory compulsion to wear a seatbelt at the time. The defendant appealed.

Issue

(1) Does one’s failure to wear a seatbelt amount to contributory negligence under s. 1(1) Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 if their injuries would have been prevented or lessened if they had done so?

Held

The appeal was allowed.

(1) Determining whether one is guilty of contributory negligence is a matter not of the cause of the accident, but of the cause of the damage.

(2) The plaintiff’s injuries, except for the broken finger, were caused by his failure to wear a seatbelt and therefore, he was guilty of contributory negligence.

(3) For this reason, the defendant’s damages should be reduced by 20 per cent.


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