Two-truck crash case appeal dismissed with costs
Appellant wears extra expense as judge is unconvinced by arguments
A New South Wales Supreme Court appeal on the result of a negligent driving case over a two-truck crash has been dismissed and costs awarded against the appellant.
The 2015 case, Doble Express Transport Pty Ltd (Administrator Appointed) v John L Pierce Pty Ltd, stems from an April 2012 incident, when Doble’s Volvo prime mover and triaxle taut liner collided with a Kenworth prime mover and B-double trailer.
The proceedings were between the companies rather than directed at either driver.
The accident occurred in thick fog as the Kenworth turned from the Hume Highway into Burley Griffin Way near Yass, headed for West Wyalong.
Doble began proceedings in the District Court against Pierce claiming $172,034.78 for damage to the Volvo and consequential losses due to inability to use it.
Doble alleged driver negligence on, primarily on the ground that the fog made the turn unsafe.
Pierce cross-claimed, seeking $159,538.29 for damage to the two trailers attached to the Kenworth.
Pierce counter-alleged driver negligence due to excessive speed in the conditions.
The primary judge found both drivers at fault.
Doble’s responsibility was assessed at 40 per cent and Pierce’s at 60 per cent.
Doble gained $103,220.86 ($172,034.78 reduced by 40 per cent) and Pierce $63,815.32 ($159,538.29 reduced by 60 per cent), with interest on each judgment accrued from the time of the crash to the date of the judgment.
Despite that, Doble appealed on whether driver negligence caused Pierce’s loss and, if so, whether it was worth 40 per cent.
The negligence argument hinged on evidence that Volvo was travelling at 80km/h and visibility was about 50 metres.
To be compliant with the Heavy Vehicle Driver Handbook, however, expert evidence was that it should have been travelling at closer to 60 km/h to allow for response time and braking time.
At that speed, reaction time would count for 25 metres and, depending on brakes and given the load, braking time would be about the same.
While it was argued that slowing the Volvo further could have induced a jack-knifing, the appeal judge found that there was ample time to slow the Volvo to a reasonable speed for the conditions, given thick fog started at least 200 metres from the intersection.