Sydney 'Tony' Clarke Plaintiff v Benedict Charles Defendant [ECSC]

JurisdictionCaribbean States
CourtEastern Caribbean Supreme Court
JudgeMitchell, J
Judgment Date28 November 2000
Judgment citation (vLex)[2000] ECSC J1128-7
Date28 November 2000
Docket NumberCIVIL SUIT NO.523 OF 1998
[2000] ECSC J1128-7

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

CIVIL SUIT NO.523 OF 1998

Between
Sydney 'Tony' Clarke
Plaintiff
and
Benedict Charles
Defendant
Mitchell, J
1

This was a running down action. At the beginning of the trial it was agreed that the only issue before the Court at this stage was who was liable for the accident. The question of damages would await the outcome of the trial on that issue and would be brought up subsequently on a Summons for Assessment of Damages.

2

Giving evidence for the Plaintiff was the Plaintiff himself, and John Dodds and Junior Douglas, who were friends of the Plaintiff travelling with him in his van at the time of the accident. The Defendant gave all the evidence on his own behalf.

3

The evidence reveals that on 24 January 1998 the Plaintiff was driving his van T866 down the Long Stretch at Arnos Vale. The Plaintiff was driving out of Kingstown taking 6 friends to Calliaqua. As the Plaintiff passed "Pork City", wherebarbeque pork is sold, he was approaching the T-junction with the entrance to the Arnos Vale Playing Field. At this point the road is barely 2 lanes wide; there is a deep drain and a wall to the left and shops and other buildings to the right. Although the speed limit for a van in that area is 20 mph, the Plaintiff testified that he was travelling at about 40–45 mph. Less than 100 ft past the barbeque shop, there was a bus stop on the opposite side of the road with a bus stopped at it.

4

The Defendant had just driven his motor car, coming from the opposite direction to the Plaintiff, and paused behind the parked bus in front of him on his side of the road. The Defendant was under the impression that the lane on the right was empty, and pulled out into it to overtake the bus. As he did so, he realised that the Plaintiff's van was speeding towards him. After he had passed the parked bus, the Defendant instinctively served back into his lane. The Plaintiff, at that time only a short distance away from the Defendant's vehicle, was unable to stop to avoid a collision. He slammed on his brakes, and half-skidded, half-swerved into the Defendant's lane on the right. The Plaintiff appears to have expected the Defendant to see what he had done and hoped that the Defendant would continue driving in the Plaintiff's lane to avoid a collision. The Defendant instead, as we have seen, no doubt expecting the Plaintiff to keep in his lane, had instinctively swerved to the left, back into his lane.

5

I do not believe the Plaintiff that the Defendant was speeding; the Defendant had stopped behind a parked bus and was trying to get past it to continue on his way. He could not have been travelling very fast. Nor do I believe the Defendant as he testified that he was driving innocently along on his side of the road when the Plaintiff for no particular reason slammed on his brakes and skidded over onto his side of the road and collided into him. I believe that when the Defendant was overtaking the parked bus the Plaintiff was about 50 feet away from him (the average of the 40 feet given by the Plaintiff and the 60 feet given by the Defendant). Given the speed of the Plaintiff, and the short distance between the two vehicles, there was hardly enough time for either one of the drivers to think.The brake impression left on the road and traversing from the Plaintiff's side of the road...

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