The case of a lorry jumping out of a car has caused a great deal of controversy recently. Such cases are known as ‘escape cases’ in English law, and their classic precedents are almost invariably due to the driver’s suspected intent to misbehave and the victim’s predicted risk of being sexually assaulted and robbed, resulting in injury or death by jumping out of the car to avoid harm. Without getting into the issue of liability of the business platform, which is another big topic, let’s just look at two of the most famous similar precedents in the UK, R v Roberts (1972) and R v Williams & Davis (1992), from the perspective of driver’s liability.
In Roberts, the victim, a 21-year-old girl, was riding in Roberts’ car when she noticed that Roberts had deviated from his route and in an isolated area Roberts began to sexually harass the victim, and when the girl resisted Roberts accelerated the car, the girl then jumped out and was seriously injured. Roberts was convicted of intentional assault.
The key to the analysis of this case is the causal chain of causation, which simply means that although it was the victim’s own decision to jump out of the car, the cause of the jump and the ultimate result of the injury suffered were related to the defendant’s actions. In Roberts’ decision, the judge’s standard was that the victim’s reaction would only break the causation if it were an act that was ‘so daft’ that no reasonable person could have foreseen it – the causal chain could only be broken if the victim’s reaction was so stupid that a reasonable person could not have predicted such a reaction. And it is determined that in such cases, it is not necessary to prove that the defendant had the motive or intent to commit the crime that led to the victim’s ultimate casualty outcome.
The question for the judge is whether, under the circumstances, what the defendant did, said or did not do, would reasonably have triggered the victim’s corresponding move. Put in our bystander’s perspective, that is, if we were the girl, would we have reacted similarly in that situation and would we have been likely to act similarly. If we concede that the victim’s reaction was naturally reasonable and predictable in a similar situation, then the defendant cannot escape blame.
In Williams & Davis, the victim was a male hitchhiking to a Music festival. During the hitchhiking trip, Williams and Davis demanded money for the car from the victim and then were suspected of robbing the victim, who jumped out of the car and died. In conducting this case analysis, the judge added the principles of Roberts to give the jury more specific guidance on the process of considering the victim’s gender, age, physical and psychological condition, the victim’s knowledge of the circumstances and context, and the availability of other viable means of avoidance. This analysis is divided into two steps: 1. whether the defendant’s words or actions toward the victim would be perceived as threatening and dangerous; and 2. if perceived as threatening and dangerous, whether the victim’s actions were a predictable and reasonable course of action under the circumstances. In particular, the judge in this case also addressed the need for the degree of predictability of the threat and danger to be proportional to the reasonableness of the victim’s response, i.e., the need to determine whether the victim’s behavior was, objectively speaking, normal or excessive. In Williams & Davis, the judge found that the victim’s Life would not have been in danger if he had given up his wallet; that is, there was a margin of expediency in the situation, and thus ruled that the chain of causation for the manslaughter charge was not established.
The controversy over the application of these principles often stems from the difficulty of quantifying the individuality of the victim and thus the difficulty of determining the ‘predictability’ of the victim’s behavior. Here we come to the ‘Thin Skull Rule’.
The Thin Skull Rule of common law means that the special (weak) physical and psychological characteristics of the victim will not be taken into account in interfering with the chain of causation, provided that the criminal conduct of the defendant is confirmed to have occurred. For example, you hit someone’s skull with a stick, not too hard, but that person just has a thin skull that breaks when you hit it; at this point, you cannot use his thin skull as a reason to plead that the causal link of the criminal act’s result was broken. This principle can be extended to almost all physically and psychologically vulnerable groups, such as robbing the elderly, the results of the elderly were scared to heart attack, you can not blame the elderly heart problems; such as fraudulent low IQ people or children, you can not say that they are their own stupid; such as here jumping out of a car, if the person jumping out of the car at the Time of the speed of the car is not able to predict the degree of danger after jumping, you can not say that she risked herself And so on. The purpose of the ‘thin skull’ principle is not to convict the defendant, but in the case of proving the existence of the starting act, the defendant is not allowed to use the plaintiff’s own weakness to find excuses for themselves, this logical difference must be clearly distinguished.
Cargo jumping incident, the deceased has passed away, superficially difficult to forensics; but if you carefully analyze the road conditions at the time of the car and other factors, must be able to infer to restore part of the evidence. The victims of such cases, often women, to women say do not single in a cab do not go out at night or even do not single moving, this attitude is absolutely unacceptable! Whether or not these cases involve a rental car platform, or simply individual behavior, the legal environment must give a statement and a set of safeguards to those who ride in the car.