Seddon v Binions: CA 1978

The Court gave guidance on the proper method of interpreting a term of a motor insurance policy which defines the limitations of use subject to which the policy provides cover. Roskill LJ: ‘Inevitably, where one has a phrase such as ‘social, domestic or pleasure purposes’ used in a policy of insurance . . there will be cases which will fall on one side of the line and cases which will fall on the other side. For my part, however much claims managers might wish it otherwise, I do not believe it is possible to state any firm principle under which it can always be predicted which side of the line a particular case will fall. It must depend on the facts of the particular case; and the facts of particular cases will vary infinitely in their detail.’ and ‘It seems to me that the solution to the problem can best be reached in this case by asking the question: what was the essential character of the journey in the course of which the particular accident occurred?’ and ‘It may well be that there will be cases, as there have been in the past, where the essential character . . of a particular journey was of a particular kind – and that that essential character will not be altered in the crucial respects merely because, incidental to that journey, something happens in the way of giving a lift to a friend as an act of courtesy or, to borrow Mr Justice du Parcq’s expression [in Passmore v Vulcan Boiler and General Insurance Co Ltd (1936) 54 Ll L R 92], charity.’ Megaw LJ: ‘[I]n general, I should have thought that there is something that can clearly be called, as I would put it, a primary purpose, by which I intend the same meaning, I think, as Roskill LJ intended in using the phrase ‘essential character of the journey’. If there be such a primary purpose, or essential character, then the Courts should not be meticulous to seek to find some possible secondary purpose, or some inessential character, the result of which could be suggested to be that the use of the car fell outside the proper use for the purposes of which cover was given by the insurance policy.’


Roskill LJ, Megaw LJ


[1978] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 381, [1978] RTR 163


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedKeeley (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 . .
AppliedCaple v Sewell and others CA 9-Nov-2001
. .
CitedAXA Insurance UK Ltd v EUI Ltd (T/A Elephant Insurance) QBD 14-May-2020
The claimant insurer had insured a garage in respect of a car it used for loan to customers when their own car was being repaired. There was a collision on the customer driving home from work. The defendant insurer was the driver’s own insurer. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic, Insurance

Updated: 26 November 2022; Ref: scu.220134