Private drivers are committing an illegal act by plying a private vehicle, not registered as a taxi, for hire.
That being so, three judges of the Appeal Court have declared, however, that passengers who take the risk of being commuted in PH cars can be compensated by insurance companies should they suffer injuries in a vehicular accident.
The order, as handed down in a 20-page judgement this week, can now be applied to the thousands of PH drivers on and their passengers. Appeal judges Alan Mendonca, Gregory Smith and Andre Des Vignes held that Section 12 (a) of the Motor Vehicle Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act (MVIA) was amended in 1996, and it overrides any provisions in a motor vehicle insurance policy that restrict for what it is to be used.
The historical ruling stemmed from an accident in which two women, Sheryl Ann Dyer, 50, and Joselle Byron, 25, both of Cemetery Road, Cap-de-Ville, Point Fortin, boarded a PH car on Library Corner, San Fernando, on September 2, 2013. The car was heading to Point Fortin and on reaching Sesame Street, Gonzales Street, the vehicle crashed into a bridge. Dyer and Byron were injured and had to be hospitalised for trauma and minor body injuries. Both women sued the vehicle’s owner, the vehicle’s driver Kendal Lewis, and the insurance company which the vehicle was insured with–Reinsurance Company of TT (RCTT), for damages.
Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled in favour of RCTT, upholding the insurance company’s argument that Lewis was using the car to ‘pull bull’ and therefore RCTT was entitled to avoid liability.
Kangaloo agreed that the vehicle’s insurance policy limited the use of the vehicle for private purpose and not for hire. She upheld RCTT’s submission that Dyer and Byron were passengers, knowing that the vehicle was being used illegally as a taxi.
Attorney Lennox Sanguinette, instructed by attorney Ted Roopnarine, appealed Kangaloo’s ruling. In legal submissions, he argued that Section 12 (a) of the MVIA was amended and a new provision overrode any limitation an insurance policy placed on use of a vehicle, in as far as injuries or death suffered by passengers.
The appellate judges said a provision in an insurance policy that seeks to restrict liability for death or injury to passengers, because they are transported for a fee, is being corrected by the section 12 (a) amendment.
In the circumstances, the judges ordered that RCTT must compensate the vehicle driver against the claims made by Dyer and Byron. They ordered that damages for the two women be assessed by a judge in chambers.