Why Performance Cars Ltd v Abraham is important
Performance Cars Ltd v Abraham raised a novel point concerning successive events. Where two events cause the same harm which requires the same cost of repair, the second defendant can not be said to have caused this loss. The second defendant is only liable for any extra damage caused.
The defendant, Abraham, hit the claimant’s Rolls Royce car. Inter alia, the lower half of the car had to be resprayed at a cost of £75.
Just before this collision, the claimant’s car was hit by a different vehicle. That accident also required the claimant to respray the lower part of the car. The car had not been resprayed at the time when Abraham collided with the car.
The claimant received judgement for a larger sum from the first driver, including £75 for the car to be resprayed. However, it was unlikely that they would actually receive this money from the first driver.
Performance Cars brought a claim in the tort of negligence against Abraham, the second driver to collide with the car. They argued the defendant was a separate tortfeasor to the first driver and was equally responsible for the loss. Abraham should be liable for the full cost of rectifying the vehicle, including the £75 for respraying the car. They nevertheless conceded that they could not recover the same full amount from both drivers, and offered to assign their judgement from the first driver to Abraham.
Abraham contested they had to pay £75 for the car to be resprayed. They argued that the claimant could not say they caused the loss, as the car already needed to be resprayed.
The defendant was held not liable for the cost of respraying the vehicle.
The Court of Appeal concluded that the defendant had damaged an already damaged vehicle. The need for respraying arose when the first driver collided with the Rolls Royce, and Abraham’s carelessness did not affect this. In these circumstances, the defendant could not be said to cause the claimant’s loss of £75.
The Master of the Rolls said,
In my judgment in the present case the Appellant should be taken to have injured a motor car that was already in certain respects (that is, in respect of the need for respraying) injured; with the result that to the extent of that need or injury the damage claimed did not flow from the Appellant’s wrongdoing. It may no doubt be unfortunate for the Plaintiffs that the collisions took place in the order in which they did. Had the first collision been that brought about by the Appellant and had they recovered the £75 now in question from him, they could not clearly have recovered the same sum again from the other wrongdoer. It is, however, in my view irrelevant (if unfortunate for the Plaintiffs) that the judgment obtained against the other wrongdoer has turned out to be worthless.