In Houston & Ors v Transport for London  EWHC 3279 (KB), Max Twivy appeared for the Defendant, Transport for London (TfL), which succeeded in its application for strike out on the basis that there was no right under the applicable statute to pursue a civil claim for damages for breach of statutory duty, and TfL did not owe the claimants a duty of care at common law.
TfL is the licensing authority in London for the purposes of taxi operators’ licences under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 (the “Act”). The claimant taxi companies claimed damages from TfL for its refusal to grant an operating licence to the third claimant, and alleged delay in granting a licence to the second claimant. The claim was brought on the basis of breach of statutory duty under the Act, alternatively on the basis of breach of a common law duty of care (negligence).
As regards the breach of statutory duty claim, it was held that there was no arguable right to pursue a civil claim for damages in circumstances where the Act provided an alternative remedy (the right of appeal to a Magistrates’ Court): “where Acts impose statutory functions on a body but they do not provide for a civil remedy or a civil action for damages, and where the Act provides an alternative remedy such as in this one, that normally displaces the right to pursue a civil claim in damages” (para 26). The reasoning in Neil Martin v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  EWCA Civ 1041 was also applied.
As regards the claim in negligence, which was put on the basis of a voluntary assumption of responsibility, it was held that: “The voluntary assumption of responsibility principle has to be founded on some act or some performance which is something outside of the mere performance (be it negligent, be it unlawful) of the statutory function that is in question” (para 28). The claimants had not identified any conduct by TfL which fell outside of the exercise of the statutory function itself, and so there was no arguable duty of care at common law.
Accordingly, strike out was granted on the basis that the claim disclosed no arguable civil cause of action for a claim for damages.
Max Twivy was instructed by Transport for London (the Defendant).