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James Arney KC, instructed by Horwich Farrelly, acted for the Defendants in a 3-day trial relating to liability only, against Richard Norton. The Defendant collided with the Claimant pedestrian in the car park of McDonald’s, causing him serious injuries.
The Defendant was one of a mixed group of young adults who attended McDonald’s in two cars. An altercation ensued between the Defendant’s group and a large group of young Asian males. The Defendant’s group returned to their respective vehicles, followed outside by a number of those males. The Asian males, joined by the Claimant’s friend from a nearby parked car, surrounded the Defendant’s vehicle, shouting and attempting the remove the Defendant and his passengers from the vehicle.
The Claimant had exited his vehicle allegedly to calm down his friend and was by now positioned in front of the Defendant’s car. Fearing for his safety and that of his female passengers, hoping and expecting that the Claimant would move out the way, the Defendant floored his accelerator to escape the attacking group.
Mr Justice Turner held that the Defendant was in genuine fear for his safety and that of his two female passengers. These were not circumstances in which the reasonable man could be expected to weight to a nicety the relative risks involved in choosing between the options open to him. The fact that he accelerated away at speed was reasonable and understandable in these particular circumstances. The Defendant acted in a way which did not fall below the standard of a reasonable driver placed in the threatening and rapidly developing situation in which he found himself.
James Arney also successfully resisted the Claimant’s attempt, late in the trial, to exclude hearsay evidence of onlookers who had witnessed the episode. Turner J ruled that having agreed to their inclusion in the trial bundle, the Claimant was unable to prevent reference to these documents.