The court was asked whether insurance pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1960 would provide valid cover for the benefit of a third party injured by deliberately criminal conduct on the part of the driver.
Held: Diplock LJ said: ‘The rule of law on which the major premise is based – ex turpi causa non oritur actio – is concerned not specifically with the lawfulness of contracts but generally with the enforcement of rights by the courts, whether or not such rights arise under contract. All that the rule means is that the courts will not enforce a right which would otherwise be enforceable if the right arises out of an act committed by the person asserting the right (or by someone who is regarded in law as his successor) which is regarded by the court as sufficiently anti-social to justify the court’s refusing to enforce that right.’
Diplock LJ said: ‘It is well settled that if a man commits murder or committed felo de se in the days when suicide was still a crime, neither he nor his personal representatives could be entitled to reap any financial benefit from such an act: In the Estate of Crippen  P. 108; Beresford v. Royal Insurance Co. Ltd .  A.C. 586. This was because the law recognised that, in the public interest, such acts should be deterred and moreover that it would shock the public conscience if a man could use the courts to enforce a money claim either under a contract or a will by reason of his having committed such acts…The court has to weigh the gravity of the anti-social act and the extent to which it will be encouraged by enforcing the right sought to be asserted against the social harm which will be caused if the right is not enforced.’ As to proposition that all contracts to indemnify a person against a liability which he may incur by committing an intentional crime are unlawful:- ‘The rule of law . . – ex turpi causa non oritur actio – is concerned not specifically with the lawfulness of contracts but generally with the enforcement of rights by the courts, whether or not such rights arise under the contract. All that the rule means is that the courts will not enforce a right which would otherwise be enforceable if the right arises out of an act committed by the person asserting the right … which is regarded by the court as sufficiently anti-social to justify the court’s refusing to enforce that right.’
Lord Denning MR said: ‘no person can claim indemnity or reparation for his own wilful and culpable crime. He is under a disability precluding him from imposing a claim.’
Diplock LJ, Lord Denning MR
 2 QB 745,  2 All ER 742
England and Wales
Cited – In the Estate of Cunigunda Crippen deceased 1911
Dr Crippen notoriously survived his wife. Between the date of his conviction for her murder and the carrying out of the death sentence passed on him, Dr Crippen made a will naming Ethel Le Neve as the sole executrix and universal beneficiary. Ethel . .
Cited – Beresford v Royal Insurance Co Ltd HL 1938
The forfeiture rule was to be applied in a case involving suicide. An insured may not recover under a policy of insurance in respect of loss intentionally caused by his own criminal or tortious act, however clearly the wording of the policy may . .
Cited – Dunbar (As Administrator of Tony Dunbar Deceased) v Plant CA 23-Jul-1997
The couple had decided on a suicide pact. They made repeated attempts, resulting in his death. Property had been held in joint names. The deceased’s father asked the court to apply the 1982 Act to disentitle Miss Plant.
Held: The appeal was . .
Cited – Keeley (Widow of Terence Noel James Keeley Deceased) v Pashen and Wren Motor Syndicate 1202 at Lloyd’s CA 10-Nov-2004
The driver had driven his car at a crowd of people intending to frighten them. Instead one had been killed. The insurers resisted liability saying that the use of the car for this purpose and as it was being used as a taxi, was not use for social . .
Cited – Gardner v Moore HL 1984
The uninsured first defendant deliberately drove a car at the plaintiff who was walking on the pavement, and thus caused serious injuries. The MIB accepted that the trial judge was bound by Hardy to declare that the Bureau was bound to indemnify the . .
Cited – J v S T (Formerly J) CA 21-Nov-1996
The parties had married, but the male partner was a transsexual, having been born female and having undergone treatment for Gender Identity Dysphoria. After IVF treatment, the couple had a child. As the marriage broke down the truth was revealed in . .
Cited – Porter v Zurich Insurance Company QBD 5-Mar-2009
The claimant insured his house with the defendants. Severely depressed, drunk and delusional, he set fire to it and now claimed after refusal to pay out. He said that he was not acting as a free agent.
Held: A claimant who seeks to recover . .
Cited – Bristol Alliance Ltd v Williams and Another QBD 1-Jul-2011
The driver had crashed into the insured’s building causing substantial damage. The court was asked which of the driver’s and building’s insurers should bear the costs. The driver’s insurers said that he had acted deliberately and therefore they were . .
Cited – Mulcaire v News Group Newspapers Ltd ChD 21-Dec-2011
The claimant, a private investigator had contracted with the News of the World owned by the defendant but since closed. He had committed criminal offences in providing information for the paper, had been convicted and had served his sentence. He . .
Cited – Patel v Mirza SC 20-Jul-2016
The claimant advanced funds to the respondent for him to invest in a bank of which the claimant had insider knowledge. In fact the defendant did not invest the funds, the knowledge was incorrect. The defendant however did not return the sums . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Insurance, Personal Injury, Contract
Updated: 02 May 2022; Ref: scu.199538