Following a collision the appellant’s vehicle, valued at around £250,000, required repairs. The vehicle was owned by a business partnership and formed part of a fleet of luxury cars covered on the same insurance policy.
During the repair period the appellant hired a Bentley and then a Rolls Royce, with hire charges totalling £92,953.90. The daily rate of hire for the Rolls Royce was approximately £2,000. The hire claim was dismissed at first instance on the basis that the appellant had failed to prove need for the replacement vehicle.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal on all grounds. The appellant argued that there was the appearance of bias against affluent claimants, with the Judge referring to the appellant as “ordering riches for himself at another’s expense”. The Judge went on to describe the need for a prestigious vehicle to maintain the image of a business as superficial and warped. The Court of Appeal found that although the Judge’s comments were not to be encouraged, he had expressed his views openly and frankly, merely repeating the appellant’s own comments that “it is materialistic but that is how these people [his clients] see it”. There was no appearance of bias.
In relation to the need for a replacement car, the Court of Appeal confirmed the position stated in Giles v Thompson  1 AC 142 that need is not self-proving. It is only once need has been shown by a claimant that the burden is upon a defendant to prove that hire costs had not been reasonably incurred. There was an absence of evidence relating to the business need and use of the vehicle and the evidence that was given was vague and non-specific. Accordingly, the appellant had failed to prove need.
The Court of Appeal stated that “very large” hire claims should be carefully scrutinised by the court. For business claims where the business operated a fleet of prestigious vehicles on the same insurance, the Judge was entitled to require specific evidence of need, including the nature of the use of the vehicle for business purposes before the collision and during the hire period.
/ 1st Feb 2013
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