The Court of Appeal has narrowly opted to allow the victim of a car accident to claim for damages against an unnamed defendant.
Lady Justice Gloster upheld the appeal of a driver who claimed for up to £15,000 following a collision in Leeds in which the defendant could be identified only by a vehicle registration number.
The vehicle was registered to Naveed Hussain but all parties accepted that he was not the driver at the time of the collision. The vehicle was also subject of a motor insurance policy written by Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co, but the insured turned out to be a fictitious person. The registered owner refused to provide information about the driver and has since been convicted of failing to provide information.
In Cameron v Hussain & Anor, Gloster rejected arguments from the insurer that allowing the appeal after the case had been dismissed in the county court would prompt a flurry of fraudulent claims relating to unidentified drivers.
She said the court could and should exercise its procedural powers to allow an amendment of the claim form to allow the claimant to substitute an unnamed defendant driver, identified by reference to the vehicle.
The judge said there was no requirement in Civil Procedure Rules that a defendant be named, merely a direction that they ‘should’ be. The failure to give the name of the defendant could not invalidate proceedings, as the overriding objective and obligations cast on the court were ‘inconsistent with an undue reliance on form over substance’.
She said she was ‘not impressed’ with the insurer’s argument that allowing the appeal would open the floodgates to fraudulent claims, adding that it was for insurers to stipulate how they require identity to be established.
Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, agreeing with the Gloster judgment, added: ‘There is no reason in principle why, in appropriate case, it should not be permissible under the CPR for a claimant to bring proceedings against an unnamed defendant, suitably identified by an appropriate description. I am unable to accept that to permit proceedings to be issued against an unnamed driver would result in any unfairness to the insurer.’
Sir Ross Cranston dissented, saying the previous court ruling was right to refuse to countenance an amendment to substitute an unnamed person for the defendant.
He argued rules were clear that, generally speaking, the claim form and any other statement of case should name the parties. This would be ‘consistent with the principle of open justice, as well as a means of enabling defendants to know about proceedings and to put their case in response’.