Sandys v Harrison

CourtSupreme Court (Irish Free State)
Judgment Date21 December 1926
Docket Number(1924. No. 8,034.)
Date21 December 1926
Sandys v. Harrison.
JOHN C. HARRISON, Defendant (1)
(1924. No. 8,034.)

Supreme Court.

Negligence - Collision between motor-cycle and motor-car - Contributory negligence - Defendant able to avoid accident notwithstanding plaintiff's negligence - Defendant taking wrong measures to avoid accident in emergency caused by plaintiff's negligence - Extent of obligation on defendant - Defendant unaware at time of impact that collision had occurred - Evidence of want of care in driving motor-car - Contradictory findings by the jury - Insufficiency of Judge's direction to jury.

Plaintiff was driving her motor-cycle and defendant his motor-car on the public road in opposite directions. In passing, the motor-car collided with the handlebar of the motor-cycle, and plaintiff was injured. The collision occurred where a bridge crosses a river almost at right angles to the road, making a dangerous turning on the road at each end of the bridge. Plaintiff had only recently acquired her motor-cycle. She stated that defendant did not keep to his proper side of the bridge, but cut across, and, after passing the bridge, continued on her side of the road. Defendant stated that he kept to his proper side of the road—the road being 22 feet wide—his off wheel being in the middle of the road, thus leaving the plaintiff fully 11 feet. He stated that the collision took place almost at the turn from the bridge, and was due to the plaintiff failing to take the turn, and, instead of turning, continuing straight on and running into him. Asked why, with 5 feet of clear roadway, he did not avoid striking the plaintiff, even if she was an inexperienced driver, the defendant replied that no one would have "expected plaintiff to go straight at him the way she did." Defendant admitted that, at the time of the impact, he was unaware that a collision had occurred. The questions left to the jury, with their answers, were: (1) "Was the defendant negligent?" "No." (2) "If yes, were the injuries complained of caused thereby?" No answer. (3) "Was the plaintiff negligent?" "Yes."(4) "If yes, could the defendant by the exercise of ordinary care and caution have avoided the consequences of such negligence?" "Yes." "Assess damages." "£250." Before answering the questions, the Judge, in reply to a question asked by the foreman, told the jury that an answer "Yes"to questions 3 and 4 would amount to a verdict for the plaintiff. Upon these findings judgment was entered for the plaintiff. Defendant applied to have the judgment set aside, and that judgment be entered for him.

Held by the Supreme Court (Kennedy C.J. and Murnaghan J.; FitzGibbon J. dissenting), that the verdict for the plaintiff must be set aside and a new trial directed. Having regard to the answer of the jury to question No. 4, it was impossible to enter judgment for the defendant; but defendant was entitled to say that the answers to questions No. 1 and No. 4 were contradictory; and, having regard to the answer to question No. 1, that there was no finding that the negligence found by the answer to question No. 4 caused the injury. And in the Judge's charge to the jury there was not a sufficient direction that the defendant should not be held liable, if, in an emergency caused by the plaintiff's negligence, the defendant took the wrong measures to avoid collision without any reasonable time for thought.

Held by FitzGibbon J., that the verdict and judgment for the plaintiff should stand.

Admiralty Commissioners v. s.s. "Volute," [1922] 1 A.C. 129, applied.

Motion that the judgment entered for the plaintiff be set aside, and that judgment be entered for the defendant.

The action was brought to recover damages for injuries caused to the plaintiff by the defendant by reason of the defendant's negligent and unskilful management and driving of a motor-car. The plaintiff, on August 2nd, 1924, was travelling towards Bray on a motor-bicycle, with a side-car attached, upon the main road which runs between Enniskerry and Bray. The defendant was driving a motor-car on the same road in the direction of Enniskerry. The road crosses the River Dargle by a bridge, known as St. Valerie Bridge, constructed almost at right angles to the road, and, as a consequence, the road has a dangerous corner at both ends of the bridge. At a point in the road in close proximity to the bridge a collision occurred between the two vehicles. The plaintiff's case was that the defendant did not keep to his proper side of the road when travelling over the bridge, but that he cut clean across it from left to right, and thereby came over to his wrong side of the road; and, when so travelling, and when passing the plaintiff, the spare wheel which he carried on the left-hand side of his car caught the left handlebar of the plaintiff's motor-cycle, and occasioned the injuries and damage complained of. The defendant's case was that he kept to his proper side of the road, which was 22 feet wide, with his off wheel bearing on the middle of it, thus leaving the plaintiff a clear 11 feet to move in, and he himself a clear 5 feet to his left-hand side; and that the accident was due to the failure of the plaintiff when approaching the bridge to properly control her motor-cycle, and to take the bend of the road leading up to it; that, instead of doing so, she "cut" the bend, deflected over the road, and, as a consequence of this negligence, struck the rear mudguard of the defendant's motor-car with her motor-cycle. The defendant...

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