Judgment in Piper v Hales dispute over Porsche 917 replica

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Gerard Clarke
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Former raciing driver David Piper has obtained judgment for damages and costs against former racing driver and motoring journalist Mark Hales, arising from damage to a Porsche 917 replica formerly owned by Mr Piper, which Mr Hales drove for the purposes of magazine articles (not in C and SC).

The judgment is here.  The text contains some typos, but the substance is clear enough.

http://www.leeds-solicitors.com/piperhales.pdf

http://www.leeds-solicitors.com/piperhales.pdf

 

 

Gerard Clarke
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Typos have entered my thread title also.  Apols.    It appears that you cannot edit opening posts.

Mario Laguna
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Gerard, thank you very much for sharing this interesting judgment, which reminds me of the seized Pegaso when it was roadtested for a rival Classic magazine, not long ago.
A judgement rarely makes happy both parties, so any comment would harm Mr Hales' feelings at present time, but I would like to say that the reading of the judgment is jubilatory from a literary point of view.
Judge Brown's motoring literacy is remarkable as the judgement even mentions the 1971 Le Mans film and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Judge Brown also makes the difference between an original Porsche 917 and a replica car and let us know David Piper owns both.
I truly hope the Piper versus Hales case won't prevent Classic and Sports Car's contributors from road testing (not pretending) valuable, historical vehicles, but personally I will be very careful if someone offers me the wheel of an invaluable car for such purposes.

 

Chris Martin
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We can sympathise with both parties in this case, but it shows how careful one has to be with insurance and the fine print clauses to cover every possibility.  How does C&SC cover it's staff on driving assignments?

Chris M.

 

James Elliott
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Chris Martin wrote:

We can sympathise with both parties in this case, but it shows how careful one has to be with insurance and the fine print clauses to cover every possibility.  How does C&SC cover it's staff on driving assignments?

Chris M.

We are covered for accidents, but not for mechanical failure (which I think it would be impossible to get insurance for in a non-race situation). This certainly raises some issues, but we have operated for 30 years without an incident of this scale and would like to think that we could continue in the same vein. It will certainly focus the mind if a car develops a minor fault mid-photoshoot (as they often do) over whether to abort the shoort or press on.

n/a
Chris Martin
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So, as I am not aware of any similar cases in the past, and this one fairly high profile because of the names and the car involved, do we now have a legal precedent that might make such tests more of a risk. If the chance of something expensive breaking which could be blamed on driver error could invite such a claim, might we now see less journos taking the risk?

Without knowing all the facts, I am somewhat sympathetic to Mr Hales.  He has long been respected as both a writer and a racer with much experience with valuable historics.  Equally, Mr Piper has been around the business a long time, knows very well the ups and downs of racing, and is 'savvy' enough to have a replica 917 on hand to rent out as his original is considered too valuable.  Maybe, but if the replica is now valued at over a million does that not rather defeat the purpose?

And finallly, who had the idea that testing a 917 round Cadwell Park would be a good idea anyway?

Chris M.

 

 

Pre 80s TVR
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Yes, it did occur to me that Cadwell Park might not be the optimum circuit to find the limits of a 917.

Part of the problem here seems to be that Mrk Hales is a freelance journalist, not employed by the magazine in question, and so presumably any insurance they carry does not automatically cover him. I wonder what would have happened if this had occured in a race meeting, not necessarily with the Porsche 917 but any of the cars seen at Goodwood, Le Mans, Silverstone etc.

I certainly hope that the judgment does not affect the testing and featuring of such wonderful vehicles in the future.

Oliver.

 

TVR Car Club Pre80s Editor

Gerard Clarke
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This case turned on its own facts, and does not establish any principle of law.  The case is unlikely, in my opinion as a lawyer, to set a general precedent.    The case does, however, highlight the importance, in any business transaction on any subject, of having a clear understanding at the outset as to who is responsible for what.  It is preferable to set this down in writing.

Note that Octane magazine had insurance against damage caused by driver error, and Mr Piper initially claimed against this insurance, but the insurer took the view that the immediate cause of the breakdown was a mechanical failure, albeit one that (at that time) Mr Hales accepted was induced by driver error.    It may be that the policy was set up to provide cover against the driver punting the car into a wall, but not against him damaging the car through over revving.

In that context, Mr Hales wrote a note to the insurer accepting that he had missed a gear.  This was fatal to his case at trial.   He asserted that the note had been written to persuade the insurer to pay out, but that was an unattractive position, as, if the note was not a true record of what had happened,  it implied an attempt to mislead the insurer.  In the event, the Judge found that the note was a true record, and so did not accept Mr Hales' evidence to the contrary. 

I have appeared in front of Judge Brown QC, and think that he is a good judge, but I do not know if he has an interest in cars, or if, like all good Judges, he informed himself of the factual context for the purposes of the case.    I suspect the former. 

 

JoeKoa
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Oddly, I found myself spending my Friday evening reading the entire report, and found it fascinating. It's all too easy for businesses to overlook the finer details of insurance, whether it's running events or hiring near priceless motor vehicles. I hope this doesn't impact the wider community, it'd be a shame to have these vehicles confined to the halls of museums because no one wants to risk being sued as a result of mechanical failure, after all, missed gear or not - old cars will always be old cars, and it's thier temperamentality and quirkiness that we fall in love with!

Joe writes for a UK Surfing Magazine, has owned numerous cars, some of which have been 'one too many beers' eBay purchases... He's lusting after an Escort Cosworth, a Saab 900 Turbo and a Volvo 240 Estate...

Gerard Clarke
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PS: thanks to the Moderators for correcting the typos in the thread title.

Chris Martin
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They do really seem to have taken over now don't they?

The Spammers that is.

So, the system we have here is not working, right?

When it gets to where there are more spams and junk mail than genuine posts it would seem the website/forum/webmaster/moderators or whoever has failed.

Sorry, but it seems now that the regulars are staying away by the busload while the annoying crap increases.

C.M.

(I doubt there is anyone left interested enough to comment though!)