A claimant who drove a top-of-the-range Mercedes while his McLaren supercar was being repaired has recovered the cost of the credit hire, despite owning other high-spec vehicles, including two Aston Martins.
The court found that “need was to be assessed not in some objective utilitarian sense”, his barrister reported.
According to Guy Vickers from Exchange Chambers, Charles Gow owned a McLaren MP4 which he had bought for £190,000 just weeks before it was involved in an accident. The party-at-fault – a tractor – had struck a pothole and lurched sideways, causing scratches to Mr Gow’s car.
Following the accident, Mr Gow told the tractor driver’s insurer, NFU Mutual, that he would accept a replacement Ferrari while the McLaren was repaired. This did not happen and after two months he hired a Mercedes SLS AMG coupe instead, also a very luxurious “supercar”, although less valuable than his McLaren.
The insurance company was not prepared to pay for the cost of hiring the Mercedes, contending that the damage was just a few scratches and Mr Gow clearly had alternative, very nice, cars available to him including two Aston Martins (which were seven and nine years old), a BMW 5 Series and a Range Rover.
Mr Gow argued that none of these were close to being on a par in terms of prestige with the McLaren, although he had driven one of the Aston Martins while waiting for the Ferrari he was initially promised.
Mr Vickers said that the judge ruled in Mr Gow’s favour, accepting the argument that the McLaren was a particularly special car and Mr Gow did not have a like-for-like replacement he could have driven instead.
The judge noted that although the Mercedes was one of the better models on the market, it fell short of the “status and prestige” of the McLaren. In the result Mr Gow recovered the hire charges in full and also general damages for the two months before he hired the Mercedes during which, although he drove his Aston, he was nevertheless deprived of the enjoyment and use of his McLaren.
Mr Vickers said: “Mr Gow successfully argued that, in this context, need was to be assessed not in some objective utilitarian sense but by considering what type of vehicle the claimant had the use of before the accident and whether any of the other cars he already owned could replace that use.
“So although he had other cars, some of them objectively highly desirable, none of them was a supercar like his McLaren and the defendant, having to take his victim as he found him, was obliged to recompense him the cost of hiring an equivalent to his own.”