Hit and run: suing persons unknown

The Supreme Court in London recently considered if and when it is permissible to sue an unknown defendant.

The Claimant was injured in a hit and run collision with a Nissan Micra in May 2013. The registered keeper of the Micra was (apparently) not the driver and declined to identify who was.  The car was insured under a policy with Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co. Ltd. (‘LV=') in the name of a third party, now believed to be non-existent!  In any event, the registered keeper was not covered under the LV= policy.

Proceedings were initially issued against the registered keeper with LV= being joined for a declaration that it would be liable to meet any judgement.

LV= denied liability.  The Claimant then sought to substitute the registered keeper as defendant with: 

the person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZJZ on 26 May 2013

This application was dismissed by the District Judge and on appeal to the County Court Judge.  The position was, however, overturned by the Court of Appeal who considered that they had a discretion to permit an unknown person to be sued whenever justice required it even though there was an alternative right of claim against the Motor Insurance Bureau (‘MIB’).

The Supreme Court allowed the insurer's appeal. It was held that the only direct right against the insurer is the right to require it to satisfy a judgement against the driver once their liability has been established in legal proceedings. In this case, because judgement cannot be obtained against an unknown party, the only recourse is against the MIB.

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Credit: UK Supreme Court | Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd [2019] UKSC 6

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