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PI and Civil Litigation

Law - practice - procedure

01 MAY 2015

Flint v Tittensor and another EWHC 466 (QB)

Flint v Tittensor and another EWHC 466 (QB)
Tort - Battery - Reasonable Force - Self-defence - Ex Turpi Causa

26 February 2015

 Edis J

 The claimant and defendant were involved in an altercation during which the claimant was struck by and then thrown from the defendant’s car, causing serious injury. The court held that the defendant had committed a battery against the claimant and that the defendant could not rely on self-defence or public policy.

 The parties had a confrontation outside a McDonalds in the early hours of the morning. The claimant had been drinking and the defendant, an actor, was parked in his car outside McDonalds, waiting for his then girlfriend. The circumstances of the incident were disputed. On the claimant’s account the confrontation culminated in the defendant driving towards the claimant and forcing him on to the bonnet before shaking the steering wheel so as to throw the claimant onto the ground, causing his injuries. By contrast, the defendant argued that the claimant had aggressively climbed onto the bonnet and the defendant had manoeuvred the car only to dislodge the claimant.

 The claimant argued that the defendant’s use of force was disproportionate while the defendant contended the force he used was reasonable and the defendant had feared for his life. The defendant further argued that the claimant’s behaviour was itself criminal and that he should not be able to recover for injuries arising out of his own criminal conduct.

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Three independent eyewitnesses gave evidence, along with the defendant’s then girlfriend. Two of the independent witnesses were clear that the defendant had driven violently and aggressively with the claimant on the bonnet, and this, together with the evidence of the defendant’s former girlfriend concerning the claimant’s behaviour, led the judge to conclude that both the claimant and the defendant had behaved badly. The evidence from both the claimant and the defendant themselves was not satisfactory and the defendant had deliberately exaggerated his fear for his life.

 The court held that the defendant had committed a battery by deliberately applying potentially lethal force to the claimant. As the claimant was an unarmed pedestrian, the defendant’s actions both in driving towards the claimant and moving the car to remove the claimant from the bonnet could not be said to have been defensive. As regards the public policy issue, although the claimant had agreed to take part in an unlawful confrontation, the claimant’s injuries had been sustained as a result of the defendant committing a different kind of serious crime against the claimant. The judge remarked that, in the context of causation, the defendant’s use of the car was comparable to him using a knife. The defendant was therefore liable for the claimant’s injuries.

It is an interesting case in that the witness evidence and the fact the defendant had been in a car probably swayed the judge in the claimant’s favour. Cases of this nature are of course fact sensitive.

 Joseph Carr and Ellen Lucas, Anthony Gold Solicitors