THE HIGH COURT
LIMERICK MOTOR CLUB LIMITED AND PIERCE TYNAN
TRANSCRIPT OF JUDGMENT
DELIVERED BY THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE KEVIN LYNCH ON 28TH APRIL 1989
This action arises out of a road accident that happened at a motor rally in County Clare on Saturday, 30th May 1981, that is to say, just short of eight years ago.
The accident happened in mid afternoon which means that it was broad daylight but the weather conditions were wet. The Plaintiff was a passenger in the car of the second defendant (Mr Tynan). She was not merely a passenger but was a participant in the motor rally being Mr Tynan's navigator.
Both the Plaintiff and the Second Defendant were rather inexperienced in motor rallying, the Plaintiff apparently having taken part as a navigator in four previously, the Second Defendant in two or three.
The Plaintiff makes no case against the Second Defendant before me. She accepts that there are risks of accidents in motor rallying, and the mere fact of an accident happening, even due to a momentary mistake or error of judgment on the part of the driver of the car, does not necessarily mean that the driver was negligent.
The Plaintiff in this action, in fact, makes the case that the error of the driver of the car (the Second Defendant Mr Tynan) was an error which was understandable and not blameworthy. Therefore I do not have to give detailed consideration to the limitations of the duty of care owed by the Second Defendant to the Plaintiff such as were discussed in the Supreme Court in the case of McComiskey v McDermott 1974 I.R.
The Plaintiff is making no case against the Second Defendant before me and therefore the Plaintiff's claim against the Second Defendant must be dismissed.
The Plaintiff's case before me is against the First Defendant, Limerick Motor Club Limited, who were the organisers of the motor rally. The duties of the organisers of a motor rally to the participants in the rally could give rise to abstruse legal arguments analogous to those that arise as to the precise duty of the driver to his navigator, but that does not arise in this case.
When all is said and done, the Plaintiff makes one single and simple allegation against the First Defendant: that the particular corner where the accident happened should have been but was not indicated in the book supplied by the First Defendant to the participants in the rally, a book which is known as and which I will refer to as 'the Tulip Book'.
The First Defendant accepts that the corner was not indicated in the Tulip Book but they say it would not have been appropriate or necessary to do so and they deny that there was any negligence on their part in not including it in the Tulip Book.
The sole question which I have to decide as between the Plaintiff and the First Defendant, therefore, is whether or not the corner in question should so obviously have been indicated in the Tulip Book that its omission amounts to negligence on the part of the First Defendant via-a-vis the participants in the motor rally and, more especially, vis-a-vis the Plaintiff (the navigator) and the Second Defendant (her driver).
The Plaintiff accepts that not every corner need be indicated in the Tulip Book.
It is quite clear to me and I find that the main purpose of the Tulip Book is to ensure that participants do not go off the route and thereby drive on open roads believing that they are still on a closed section of road, in a manner which would be highly dangerous to non-participants using those roads, whereas the same driving on closed roads would be acceptable.
All of the corners indicated in the Tulip Book are intersections with an arrow indicating the route to be taken as between two or more alternative available roads. The Plaintiff's case is that this, accident happened at a place which was not a mere corner but was an intersection and therefore should have been indicated in the Tulip Book. The Plaintiff says that the laneway to the right made it difficult to know whether one should go right or left at the particular place and that the driver ended up going straight ahead, and into the ditch on the far side of the road. The Plaintiff also says that the corner was confusing because it was sharper than was indicated by the line of the telegraph poles and the ditch.
First I ask what would happen if a car did take a wrong route and went down that laneway? Only 70 or 80 yards down the laneway the driver would find himself in a farmyard and would retrace his steps. There would be no danger of cars being driven around believing they were still on a closed section of road when, in fact, they were on roads open to the general public and thus being driven at danger to the ordinary members of the public.
The organisers of the motor rally, the First Defendant, had to make a value judgment as to what to indicate in the Tulip Book and what not to include in it. There must be many junctions or corners that are similar to the one in question which might or might not be included. There would be many farm entrances or bog boreens which were obviously not necessary to include. It should be clear to drivers and navigators that they should keep on for the rally course and that the junctions involving a mud track into a bog or yard would obviously not be the rally route.
The object of the motor rally sport is to test a team's ability to drive the route and their ability within reason to cope with and overcome difficulties and dangers.
At this particular corner or junction a tarmac road, which was the rally route, went to the left; the telegraph poles indicated that the road would go to the left; the ditches indicated that the road would go to the left. There was a stone and gravel and mud laneway to the right. The bend undoubtedly calls for skill in distinguishing or ignoring the laneway and negotiating the bend, especially as it is sharper than the line of telegraph poles and the ditch.
The question I must answer is whether this was a corner or junction so obviously requiring a warning in the Tulip Book that no reasonable organiser of the motor rally would omit it from the Tulip Book. I do not think that the corner or junction in question was one which so obviously required a warning in the Tulip Book that the organisers were negligent in arriving at the decision not to include it in the book. Accordingly, I find that the First Defendants were not negligent and therefore the case against them must also be dismissed.