Coppinger, Dermot, v Waterford County Council

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Geoghegan
Judgment Date01 January 1998
Neutral Citation1996 WJSC-HC 500,1996 WJSC-HC 469
Docket Number[1986 No. 7109P],No. 7109P/1986,No. 8605P/1987
Date01 January 1998

1996 WJSC-HC 469

THE HIGH COURT

No. 7109P/1986
COPPINGER (D) v. WATERFORD CO COUNCIL

BETWEEN

DERMOT COPPINGER
PLAINTIFF

AND

THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF WATERFORD TOYOTA MOTOR DISTRIBUTORS (IRELAND) LIMITED AND TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION
DEFENDANTS

Citations:

EEC DIR 70/156

EEC DIR 70/221

EEC DIR 79/490

ROAD TRAFFIC (CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT & USE OF VEHICLES) (AMDT) REGS 1985 SI 158/1985

PUBLICO MINISTERO V RATTI 1990 ECR 1629

BECKER V FINANZAMT MUNSTER-INNENSTADT 1982 ECR 53

MARSHALL V SOUTHAMPTON & SOUTH WEST HAMPSHIRE AREA HEALTH AUTHORITY 1986 ECR 723

JOHNSTON V CHIEF CONSTABLE OF THE RUC 1986 ECR 1651

MARLEASING V LA COMERCIAL INTERNACIONAL DE ALIMENTACION 1990 ECR 4135

FOSTER & ORS V BRITISH GAS PLC 1990 ECR 3313

FRATELLI COSTANZO V COMUND DI MILANO 1989 ECR 1839

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961

TATE V MIN FOR SOCIAL WELFARE 1995 ILRM 503

DOHERTY V BOWATER 1968 IR 277

REDDY V BATES 1983 IR 141

CONNOLLY V BUS EIREANN UNREP BARR 29.1.96 1996/2/415

SINNOTT V QUINNSWORTH LTD 1984 ILRM 523

ROAD TRAFFIC (CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT & USE OF VEHICLES) (AMDT) REGS 1985 SI 158/1985 ART 4

ROAD TRAFFIC (CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT & USE OF VEHICLES) (AMDT) REGS 1985 SI 158/1985 ART 4(3)

Synopsis:

EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES

Council of Ministers

Directive - Compliance - Failure - Tort - Local authority - Liability - Car crashed into back of county council's stationary tipper truck - Strict liability of county council for damage caused partially by failure to fit truck with rear under-run protective device - Failure to comply with requirement of Council Directive - County Council treated as emanation of the State - (1986/7109 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96)- [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Local authority

Vehicle - Equipment - Standard - Compliance - Failure - Tipper truck - Strict liability of county council for damage caused partially by failure to fit truck with rear under-run protective device - Failure to comply with requirement of Council Directive - County Council treated as emanation of the State — (1986/7109 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96)- [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

MARRIAGE

Consortium

Loss - Wife - Claim - Basis - Husband's incapacity - Permanent brain damage, loss of movements and speech, double incontinence - Traffic accident in which husband 75% at fault and stranger 25% at fault - Wife's claim against stranger - Whether damages pay able to wife affected by husband's fault - Civil Liability Act, 1961 (No. 41) s. 35 - (1987/8605 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96) - [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

NEGLIGENCE

Fault

Apportionment - Car - Truck - Collision - Plaintiff drove his car into back of stationary tipper truck - Straight road with good visibility - Truck owned by local authority - Whether Council directive required truck to be fitted with special rear under-run protective device - Whether truck exempted from compliance with Council directive - Directive enforceable against local authority as emanation of the State - Apportionment of 27% of fault to the local authority - (1986/7109 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96)- [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

NEGLIGENCE

Motorist

Car - Truck - Collision - Fault - Apportionment - Damages - Assessment - Plaintiff drove his car into back of stationary tipper truck - Straight road with good visibility - Truck owned by local authority - Whether Council directive required truck to be fitted with special rear under-run protective device - Whether truck exempted from compliance with Council directive - Directive enforceable against local authority as emanation of the State - Domestic regulations implementing Directive not in force at date of accident - Civil Liability Act, 1961 (No. 41), ss. 2, 34 - (1986/7109 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96)- [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

TORT

Council of Ministers

Directive - Compliance - Failure - Wrong - Local authority - Liability - Car crashed into back of county council's stationary tipper truck - Strict liability of county council for damage caused partially by failure to fit truck with rear under-run protective device - Failure to comply with requirement of Council Directive - County Council treated as emanation of the State - (1986/7109 P - Geoghegan J. - 22/3/96)- [1998] 4 IR 220

|Coppinger v. Waterford County Council|

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice Geoghegan delivered the 22nd day of March 1996.

2

On the 6th December 1985, the Plaintiff was very seriously injured in a motor accident on the Youghal to Waterford road. The Plaintiff who was a civil engineer in Cork was driving to Dungarvan with a fellow civil engineer in order to play golf when for no apparent reason the car being driven by the Plaintiff collided into the rear of a tipper truck, the property of Waterford County Council, which was lawfully stopped on the Plaintiff's side of the road but close to the centre. The stretch of roadway where the accident happened was long, straight and wide and there would have been plenty of room for the Plaintiff to pass the truck on the inside or, alternatively, he would have had plenty of time to stop. It would appear that the Plaintiff in some way or other misjudged the situation and did not realise until it was too late that the truck which he saw in front of him was stationary rather than in motion.

3

Notwithstanding the nature of the accident which I have briefly described, the Plaintiff is seeking to recover damages for his injuries on two separate or alternative grounds which I will be explaining in more detail. But I should at this stage mention that although Toyota Motor Distributors (Ireland) Limited and Toyota Motor Corporation are added Defendants in the proceedings pursuant to a Court Order, all claims against those two companies were withdrawn. In the amended Statement of Claim there are a large number of alleged acts and omissions which the Plaintiff claimed were caused or contributed to by negligence and/or breach of duty on the part of Waterford County Council, its servants or agents and which allegedly caused or contributed to the accident. At the hearing, however, the only complaint made against Waterford County Council was that there was no rear under run protection barrier or device fitted to the County Council truck at the time of the accident. It is the Plaintiff's case that his car went some distance in under the truck and that as a result of that, his injuries were particularly serious. He maintains that if there had been an under run device the injuries would have been relatively minor.

4

This complaint against the County Council gives rise to two separate or alternative alleged causes of action by the Plaintiff against the County Council. These are:-

5

1. Common law negligence in failing to have in place such a device.

6

2. Breach of E.C. Directives, Waterford County Council being treated as an "emanation of the State."

7

The County Council denies liability under either of these headings and in particular the County Council specifically denies:

8

1. That having regard to certain Irish Regulations which were in place though not in force at the time of the accident and the general knowledge and understanding at the time, there could have been any duty of care to attach an under run device in a tipper truck and in particular a tipper truck used for gritting in connection with road building and maintenance.

9

2. That the E.C. Directives applied to this kind of vehicle at all.

10

3. That if they did apply, there was not a specific exemption in relation to this kind of truck.

11

4. That the absence of the under run device was relevant to the Plaintiff's injuries.

12

5. That Waterford County Council could be regarded as an emanation of the State so as to be liable for non-compliance with the Directive.

13

6. That the requirements of the Directives relied on were sufficiently precise to have direct effect.

14

I will deal with the question of common law negligence first. There is no doubt that at the time of the accident there was a general awareness of the safety importance of rear protective devices and such devices are specifically referred to in the E.C. Council Directive of 6th February, 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type approval of motor vehicles and their trailers ( 70/156/EEC). More precise specifications were set out in the later Council Directive of the 20th March, 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to liquid fuel tanks and rear protective devices for motor vehicles and their trailers ( 70/221/EEC) which requirements were ultimately expanded and refined in Commission Directive of the 18th April, 1979 ( 79/490/EEC). But the Directives were purported to be implemented in Ireland by the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations, 1985 S.I. No. 158 of 1985. Those Regulations were made on the 6th June, 1985 and had been circulated to the County Councils some time before the accident. It is obvious from the terms of the Regulations that they were made with a view to implementing the relevant E.C. Directives. Article 4 of those Regulations provided that a vehicle, trailer or semi-trailer to which the Article applied should on or after the 1st January, 1986 at all times while used in a public place be equipped with a rear under run protective device. Sub-Article (3) of Article 4 lists a number of different categories of vehicles to which Article 4 is not to apply. One of these exempted vehicles is "a vehicle or trailer so constructed that it can be unloaded by part of the vehicle or trailer being tipped rearwards". Apparently these Irish Regulations including the exemption to which I have just referred were copied from earlier English Road Traffic Regulations. The...

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