Purdue v Devon Fire and Rescue Service: CA 9 Oct 2002

The claimant was severely injured when, as he emerged through traffic lights as they turned green. He was in a collision with a fire engine driving in response to an emergency call-out. The driver of the fire engine said the claimant should have seen the lights. The officers were not sounding the wailing alarm. The Regulations allowed a specific but limited exemption for emergency vehicles from compliance with traffic lights.
Held: The evidence from the fire officers to suggest that the claimant should have seen them coming was not convincing. The decision reached by the recorder was capable of being reached from the evidence before him. Both the regulations and the services own code of conduct required an emergency vehicle in this situation to give way. The driver had not done so. However: ‘With some hesitation, I am driven to conclude that a properly observant driver would and should have so noticed the fire engine and that Mr Purdue failed to do so. I think that this failure amounts to a want of observation and thus a want of due care. Accordingly, in my judgment there was a degree of contributory negligence but, for the reasons advanced by Mr Hillier, I do not think that that degree was great.’ The claimant was found to be 20% liable.


Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Justice May And Mr Justice Bodey


[2002] EWCA Civ 1538




Traffic Signs And General Directions Order 1994 (1994 No 1519)


England and Wales


CitedGriffin v Mersey Regional Ambulance CA 8-Oct-1997
A driver who had crossed through a green traffic light but had collided with an ambulance was 60 per cent contributorily negligent. He had failed to hear the ambulance, had failed to see it, and had ignored unusal driving of other motorists.
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic, Negligence, Personal Injury

Updated: 27 June 2022; Ref: scu.217736