Taxi driver runs foul of the law as he imprisons passengers over fare dispute – new court case should act as a warning

Taxi law experts Howards Solicitors are warning taxi drivers not to take the law into their own hands, even if they believe they are being provoked, after a new landmark ruling.

The case of Eve Lamb v Equity Red Star has set a new precedent for the duty of care demanded of taxi drivers towards their passengers and other road users.

The taxi driver who was insured Equity Red Star had been found liable of false imprisonment after he refused to let his passengers leave his vehicle over a fare dispute.

In the ensuing confrontation between the driver and Ms Lamb’s partner, she suffered a broken hip requiring 6 weeks in hospital after the driver lost control of his vehicle.

The taxi driver had decided to take the couple to a police station despite repeated requests to be allowed to exit – an action that was deemed false imprisonment by the Court.

This has led to a key ruling that the driver had a strict liability, which makes him legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his acts regardless of fault – Ms Lamb was awarded £13,250 in damages.

Deputy District Judge Jones also commented in his judgement that the driver had the option to stop his vehicle but continued and so posed a significant danger to other road users as well as his passengers.

Howards Solicitors, which works closely with the taxi trade, represented Ms Lamb, believes that taxi drivers must take away key lessons away from this case.

Gavyn Atkinson, head of personal injury and civil litigation, who worked on the case at Howards Solicitors, advises: “If you are a taxi driver that believes that they have been wronged do not take the law into your own hands, pursue other options.

If you find yourself in a difficult position call the Police if possible, drop off passengers outside their homes or places of work and note the address, install cameras in your cab.”

Atkinson continues: “Only in cases of self-defence where you honestly believe that there is a threat to your physical well-being would we acknowledge that there might not be any reasonable alternative.  However, cases that go to Court are often not clear cut in regards to self-defence.”

Oliver Gardner managing partner of Howards Solicitors, which specialises in criminal and motoring law comments: “The law is still far from satisfactory for taxi drivers.  There are few, if any, cases that give much needed guidance to taxi drivers in this area.

Moreover, Gavyn’s research showed that no approved guidelines are in place, from councils or colleges offering NVQs for taxi drivers.  It is a situation that needs to be resolved quickly to protect taxi drivers and their passengers.”