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Can you warn your readers who borrow expensive cars about the potential costs if the car breaks down?

It’s vital that drivers of other people’s cars know that if you borrow another persons car or test drive that car you owe the owner of the car a duty of care. In a recent case in the high court, Mark Hales, writer for the Daily Telegraph, borrowed a very expensive Porsche 917 replica, that was valued at £1.25 million pounds, to race a Ferrari 512S, owned by Pink Floyd man Nick Mason. In short, Mark Hales blew the engine of the Porsche up when he over revved the car as he missed a gear. Hales was successfully sued for £48,000, the cost of rebuilding the car’s engine by the owner a Mr David Piper.

Mr Hales claims he has been ruined by the case as the costs including legal charges, including his own costs plus the repairs come to a whopping £200,000. Mr Hales fought the case because he alleges the gearbox of the car was faulty. Mr Piper strongly refuted Mr Hales claims. Mr Hales had his character impugned when the trial judge called him an unreliable witness. You would think you can get some kind of insurance for such a case, but you cannot. The car was insured by ‘Octane’ magazine for crash damage, but not for mechanical damage. Well, that has stopped me from borrowing my good mate’s Ferrari Dino.

Asked on 16 March 2013 by LD, Surrey

Answered by Honest John
I think that judgement was grossly unfair on Mark and it has effectively put an end to all forms of historic car racing (and actually all forms of car racing) unless the owner of the car signs a contract absolving the driver of any responsibility for mechanical damage. So the lawyers are going to have a field day, courtesy of that judge. Welcome to the British legal system.
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