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Fitzgerald v Lane [1989] 1 AC 328 House of Lords

The claimant walked across a pelican crossing when the lights for pedestrians were red. He was struck by the first defendant and bounced off the bonnet on to the path of the car driven by the second defendant. He suffered tetraplegia. The claimant was unable to establish whether it was the first impact or the second impact which caused the tetraplegia. The trial judge held that the three were equally at fault with both defendant's travelling too fast and not paying sufficient attention. He assessed the damages at £596,553 and order the two defendants to pay one third of that amount. The defendants appealed. Both defendants appealed against the apportionment of the damages in that if the judge held they were equally at fault the claimant should have his damage reduced to 50%. The second defendant also argued that he was not the cause of the tetraplegia.

Court of Appeal:


Held:
1. As the claimant was unable to prove which impact was the cause of the tetraplegia, it was for each of the defendants to demonstrate that that they were not the cause. If they were unable to do so they would be jointly liable. (This point was not appealed and has since been overruled in Willsher v Essex)
2. The trial judge was correct in the apportionment of loss under the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945. The defendants appealed this point to the House of Lords.



House of Lords

Substituted an apportionment of 50% to be divided between the defendants. The court is to first assess the full damages and then assess the degree to which the claimant contributed to their own injuries. Then reduce the damages accordingly. A claimant is not to be over compensated simply because there are two defendants.
 
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