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Liability of a Motor Insurer for Criminal Acts

CASE REPORT:-     

AXN & Ors v (1) John Worboys (2) Inceptum Insurance Co Ltd (formerly HSBC Insurance (UK) LTD) [2012] EWHC 1730 (QB)

 

The preliminary issues concerned whether, and to what extent, the claimants had, in addition to their claims against Worboys, valid causes of action against the defendant insurer as the provider of the compulsory motor insurance required by the Road Traffic Act 1988. His insurance policy provided cover for "social, domestic and pleasure purposes and for use for public hire".

 

The Court was asked to determine whether:

(i) the bodily injuries suffered by the claimants "arose out of the use of Worboys’ vehicle on a road or other public place" within the meaning of s145(3)(a) of the 1988 Act;

(ii) liability in respect of Worboys’ acts of poisoning and sexual assault was required by s145(3)(a) to be covered by a policy of insurance, and was covered by the policy issued by his insurer;

(iii) Worboy's use of the vehicle at the material times was a use insured by the policy;

(iv) the insurer was liable pursuant to s151 to pay to the claimants any sum payable pursuant to a judgment obtained against Worboys.


Mr Justice Silber determined this preliminary issue in favour of defendant insurer. The Court held:

(1) the claimants’ injuries were caused by the criminal acts of Worboys in administering sedatives and then in attempting to or actually assaulting the claimants, and did not arise out of the use of the taxi on a road;

(2) as the injuries sustained by the claimants did not arise out of Worboys' use of a vehicle on a road and so they were not required by s145(3)(a) to be covered by insurance;

 (3) if the essential character of the journey consisted of use for a criminal purpose then the vehicle would not be covered by its insurance (Caple v Sewell [2011] EWCA Civ 1948). By the time that the claimants were sedated and assaulted, the essential character or purpose of the journey was criminal and the use was not covered by the insurance; and 

(4) therefore having regard to the answers to the first three issues, the insurer was not liable, pursuant to s151, to pay to the claimants any sum payable pursuant to a judgment obtained against Worboys.

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