Moreno vs MIB – Landmark Supreme Court ruling on motor accidents abroad.

Posted by Daniel Scognamiglio on

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Tiffany Moreno suffered injuries whilst on holiday in Greece as a pedestrian in 2011, after being hit by a motorist in a car with no motor insurance.

Unfortunately, she had to have a lower right leg amputation. In a claim such as this, the injured person is entitled to bring a claim against the Motor Insurer's Bureau of England/Wales. If the motor car had been insured, the claim would have been against the motor insurer, but the claimant could still have brought the claim in her home jurisdiction.

The claim was referred to the Supreme Court as a result of a decision from the High Court. Although the judge Gilbart, J originally ruled in favour of the claimant – that the compensation would be decided under home jurisdiction, he considered that he was bound by a ruling in Jacobs v MIB, 2010 EWCA Civ 1208. He however noted that there had been arguments that Jacobs was wrongly decided in light of Rome II . He noted that the Supreme Court had previously given permission to hear the issue in Jacobs but that appeal had not proceeded. After deciding that this was an important issue, which could affect a considerable number of claims, a 'leap-frog' certificate was granted, which meant that there was no hearing in the Court of Appeal.

The Law

There is quite a considerable variation around Europe as to the level of damages available to a claimant. Tiffany would receive substantially less damages in claim like this, where Greek rather than English/ Welsh damages would apply.

If the motor car had insurance, the law has been clarified and it would be Greek law that would apply to the assessment of Tiffany's compensation with very few exceptions. The law as it stood was that if the car had no insurance it would be English/ Welsh damages that applied.

This anomaly was created largely by the wording of Regulation 13 of The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Information Centre and Compensation Body) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003 No 37) “the 2003 Regulations”. The Supreme Court were asked to consider this discrepancy. Of note are the Court of Appeal judgements of Bloy v MIB [2013] and Jacobs v MIB [2010] both of which had followed the wording of the domestic 2003 Regulations and concluded that it was English/ Welsh damages that applied.

The decision

Lord Mance provided the leading judgement. He considered how the scheme was intended to run throughout Europe and that the 2003 Regulations should so far as possible, be interpreted in a sense which is not in any way inconsistent with the EU Directives, including EU Motor Directives.

He concluded that it would not be consistent with the scheme to provide compensation other than in accordance with the law of the state of the accident. Specifically, he focused on Articles 6 and 7 of the Fourth Motor Directive. Regulation 13 (2)(b) of the 2003 Regulations should have a purely mechanical or functional operation, and could not be considered as giving a distinction between liability and heads of damage on the one hand and the measure of damages on the other, as had happened in Harding v Wealands.

In conclusion, the Court considered that a claim against the MIB should be considered in accordance with the jurisdiction of the law of Greece on this occasion.

What does this mean for future cases?

Whilst the judgement has clarified that damages following a road traffic accident involving an insured and uninsured vehicles in the EU are now to be assessed in the same way, it does leave some injured claimants with less damages than they would otherwise have received. Other claimants, particularly where there has been a fatality will receive increased damages. Where someone suffers an injury elsewhere in the EU as a result of a motor accident, their loss should be assessed in accordance with the location of the accident, despite the possibility that jurisdiction will have different social welfare or healthcare than one may find in the UK.

Anyone travelling from the UK to another jurisdiction needs to be aware that they accept the law of that jurisdiction should there be an injury following a road traffic accident. The UK claimant's true loss is rarely reflected in their compensation where they suffer injuries elsewhere in the EU; and the UK claimant is rarely put in the position that they would have been had the accident not happened. It remains vitally important for any claimant lawyer to ensure that they are aware of the various levels of damages available to a claimant before deciding the jurisdiction and basis of the claim.

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About the Author

Daniel leads our travel team. He is a specialist in multi-jurisdictional disputes, travel insurance litigation and tour operator liability and is qualified as a solicitor in England and Attorney at Law (non-practising) New York.

Daniel Scognamiglio
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