Five Supreme Court justices have ruled in favour of a motor insurer in a case over when it is permissible to sue an unknown defendant. In Cameron v Liverpool Insurance Co Ltd, Lord Sumption today allowed an appeal by insurer LV= against a Court of Appeal judgment which it said might create a 'fraudster's charter'.
The case followed a 2013 collision from which the car at fault, a Nissan Micra, drove off without stopping. Its number plate details were taken and traced to a registered keeper who was convicted of failing to reveal who was driving at the time. The car was insured under a policy issued by LV=, against which the innocent driver, Bianca Cameron, brought a claim.
LV= denied liability and was backed by a district judge and an appeal to the High Court. However two out of three Court of Appeal judges found that the court had a discretion to permit an unknown person to be sued whenever justice required it. Today's judgment sets aside that ruling. Lord Sumption concluded that 'a person, such as the driver of the Micra in the present case, who is not just anonymous but cannot be identified with any particular person, cannot be sued under a pseudonym or description.'
Lord Reed, Lord Cornwath, Lord Hodge and Lady Black agreed with the judgment.
Insurance firm Keoghs said the judgment 'emphatically underlines' that the current framework for compensating the victims of untraced drivers - the Motor Insurers Bureau's untraced drivers agreement - 'is indeed fit for purpose and compliant with European law'.
Martin Milliner, claims director at LV=, said: 'Although the case in question was a low value motor claim, the claimant’s arguments sought to drive a coach and horses through UK law. If this blatant attack on the MIB untraced drivers agreement had been successful then it would have created a "fraudsters charter" that could have been abused by criminals for a safe passage through the judicial system.
'The concept that insurers could have been liable to satisfy judgments against unidentified defendants, without an opportunity to investigate the claim, could have had grave consequences for the industry and its customers.'
Stephen Worthington QC and Patrick Vincent, instructed by Keoghs LLP appeared for the appellant; Benjamin Williams QC, Ben Smiley and Anneli Howard, instructed by Bond Turner Solicitors, for the respondent. Tim Horlock QC and Paul Higgins, instructed by Weightmans LLP appeared for the intervener, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.