Phillips v Rafiq and Moror Insurer’s Bureau: QBD 11 May 2006

The deceased had been a passenger in a car. He had known the driver was not insured. The estate claimed first damages from the first defendant driver, and only then to enforce the judgment against the second defendant.
Held: The MIB was accountable for the judgment. Seymour J considered how the Agreement under which the MIB operated was to be interpreted: ‘It seems to me that the basic approach to the construction of any document. . . is to look at what it actually says. That must be the logical starting point. While a document must be construed against the background of the relevant circumstances in which it was made, one should not start from the position that the answer to the proper construction of the document lies in the background circumstances and that little or no account need be taken of the wording of the document. Moreover, as it seems to me, where the relevant words of a document appear on their face to have a clear and unambiguous meaning that is a powerful aid to that construction. There must be a certain weight to be attached to the consideration that the parties meant what they appear clearly to have said. In the present case the wording of the definition of the expression ‘claimant’ is clear and is to the effect for which Mr Ritchie contended.
I accept that the wording of the definition was introduced by the expression ‘unless the context otherwise requires’. One would ordinarily expect that the contingency against which the parties were seeking to guard by including some such wording was a situation in which the application of the literal definition produced absurdity or something approaching it. Mr McKeon seemed at one point rather to be submitting that the effect of the words was a somewhat Alice in Wonderland licence to the parties to interpret their definitions as they chose depending upon the result they wanted to achieve. I cannot accept that submission.
It is obviously right, in my judgment, in construing the 1999 Agreement, to have in mind that it is the successor to a number of other agreements between essentially the same parties in dealing with the same subject matter. However that does not lead to the conclusion, in my judgment, that the parties to the 1999 Agreement wished to achieve in respect of passengers injured by uninsured drivers who had knowledge of the lack of insurance the same provision as was made in the 1988 Agreement. The obvious course to take had that been desired would have been simply to repeat the relevant provisions of the 1988 Agreement. The use of different wording shows plainly, as it seems to me, that it was not intended simply to reproduce the same effect as in the 1988 Agreement. The wording in the 1988 Agreement was clear as to the effect upon the claims of dependents. The changing of that clear wording, in my judgment, shows that, for whatever reason, the parties to the 1999 Agreement wished to make different provision. The different provisions made, as it seems to me, not visiting the consequences which would have ensued for a person in the position of Mr Phillips had he been the claimant upon his dependents, is not absurd or ridiculous. There could be very sound reasons of policy for wishing to achieve exactly that result.
I accept the submission of Mr Ritchie that it is irrelevant to the proper construction of the 1999 Agreement that the necessary basis for a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 s. 1 is that the deceased, had he lived, would have had a claim. So far as the 1999 Agreement is concerned, the sole issue is whether the actual claimant, Mrs Phillips, satisfies the requirements of the 1999 Agreement, properly construed, which need to be met before she is entitled to have her judgment, assuming she gets one, against Mr Rafiq, settled by M.I.B. In my judgment, for the reasons which I have given, she does.
For the reasons submitted by Mr Ritchie I find that the provisions of Article 1(4) of the second Motor Insurance Directive are also irrelevant to the proper construction of the 1999 Agreement. These provisions do not require any exception at all to be made under the scheme like that established by the 1999 Agreement. They simply prescribe the greatest extent of the permitted exceptions.’


Seymour J


Unreported, 11 May 2006


second Council Directive (84/5/EEC)


England and Wales

Cited by:

Appeal fromPhillips v Rafiq and Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) CA 13-Feb-2007
The MIB appealed from a judgment making it liable for an award of damages to the estate of the deceased who had been a passenger in a vehicle which he knew to be being driven without insurance. The estate had not sued the MIB directly, but first . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury

Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.248829