Suing Unnamed Defendants or Persons Unknown: Cameron v Hussain [2017]

12 October 2018

Article originally published in Civil Justice Quarterly, Volume 37 Issue 4 2018

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) permit proceedings against unnamed defendants. This is available where wrongdoers conceal their identities, such as on the internet, or hit and run drivers. Under the Sixth Motor Insurance Directive, compulsory insurance is on the vehicle. The insurers’ responsibility is in respect of civil liabilities of any driver whosoever, including when there is no right of indemnity under the policy. In Cameron v Hussain, on appeal to the Supreme Court, the victim has the number plate, and there is insurance of that vehicle by identified insurers. The case in the Court of Appeal overlooked art.18 of the Directive, which requires a direct right of action for the victim against insurers. The dissenting judgment agreeing with the court below: (1) misinterprets the Directive, the CPR and s.151 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, (2) disregards the legislative public policy underlying them, (3) is founded on considerations which are mistaken, and (4) reaches a deeply unsatisfactory result. There should be, and is, a general principle under the CPR that courts will do what they can to allow substantive rights to be determined and enforced. This underlies the established procedures in internet cases and for injunctions. It engages the overriding objective, enabling the courts to do good justice.

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