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Written on 15th August 2016 by Claire Roantree

The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman from the Vale of Glamorgan who was seriously injured when she was hit by a car while on holiday in Greece, must have her compensation determined by Greek law.

In May 2011, Tiffany Moreno, from Barry, had her right leg amputated below the knee after being hit by an uninsured driver on the Greek island of Zakynthos. The body that compensates victims of uninsured drivers, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), has admitted liability but argued that damages should be calculated according to the law of the country where the accident happened. The Claimant’s solicitors argued that it should be the law of the country in which the claim is brought (the law of England and Wales).

Ms Moreno was walking along the verge of a road on the holiday island when she was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Ms Kristina Beqiri, who had neither a valid driving licence nor insurance. Ms Beqiri admitted responsibility for the accident. Ms Moreno suffered very serious injuries, which included loss of her right leg, requiring her to use a wheelchair, continuing pain and psychological reaction, as well as loss of earnings.

The MIB was handling Ms Moreno’s claim on behalf of its Greek counterpart, the Greek Guarantee Fund.

Ms Moreno (The Claimant) issued a claim against the MIB under the Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Information Centre and Compensation Body Regulations) 2003 (SI 2003/37) (the “2003 Regulations”).

Legal issues

Under Regulation 13 of the 2003 Regulations an injured party who resides in the UK may make a claim for compensation from a compensation body (such as the MIB) where an accident, caused by the use of a vehicle which is normally based in an EEA state:

  1. Occurs in an EEA state other than the UK;
  2. The injured party has made a request for information in accordance with the 2003 Regulations; and
  3. It has proved impossible to identify an insurance undertaking which insurers the use of the vehicle within 2 months of the request for information.

Regulation 13(2) states that the MIB shall compensate the injured party as if the accident had occurred in Great Britain.

However, under Regulation (EC) No 864/2007 of the European Parliament and Council on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (“Rome II”), which is binding in its entirety and directly applicable in England and Wales, the law applicable to a non-contractual obligation arising out of a tort shall be the law of the country in which the damage occurs.

The MIB admitted liability under Regulation 13 of the 2003 Regulations, but argued that the measure of compensation payable should be assessed in accordance with the law of Greece. The Claimant’s solicitors submitted that the damages should be assessed in accordance with the law of England and Wales.

The level of damages available to the Claimant in this case would be higher if they were calculated using English law rather than Greek law. The High Court was asked to decide the preliminary issue of whether the scope of the MIB’s liability to the Claimant should be determined in accordance with the law of England and Wales or the law of Greece.

High Court decision

The High Court found that it was bound by the previous Court of Appeal decisions of Jacobs v MIB[2010] EWCA Civ 1208 and Bloy and Ireson v MIB [2013] EWCA Civ 1543. These decisions held that the damages in such a Regulation 13 claim should be assessed in accordance with the law of the country in which the claim is brought (the law of England and Wales).

The Supreme Court in Jacobs had granted the MIB permission to appeal the decision, but before this appeal was heard the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“) gave judgment in a subsequent case dealing with the date on which Rome II came into force – Homawoo v GMF Assurances SA [2011] EUECJ C-412/10. The CJEU in Homawoo held that Rome II applies to determine the governing law of non-contractual obligations only where the events giving rise to damage occurred after 11 January 2009. Consequently, it did not apply in the Jacobs case and the MIB’s appeal in that case was abandoned.

Mr Justice Gilbart in the present case found that he was bound by the Court of Appeal in Jacobs and Bloy. He therefore concluded that the Claimant’s compensation should be assessed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales. However, the judge commented that there was very considerable force in the MIB’s argument that the effect of Rome II on the interpretation of Regulation 13 meant that Jacobs had been wrongly decided, but that issue was for a higher court to decide.

Appeal to the Supreme Court

On 12 July 2016 The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the MIB stating that a victim’s entitlement to damages must be measured by reference to the law of the state in which the accident occurred. The law for damages will now be applied consistently to uninsured and insured cases.