Pretoria - A red Ferrari California, which was almost split in half and damaged beyond repair when it hit a lamp-post, was the subject of a legal wrangle between the insurer of the car and the owner after the insurer refused to pay out.
It accused the driver of the Ferrari of speeding along William Nicol Drive in Joburg during rainy conditions.
Owner of the Italian vehicle Sashin Govender turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to force GuardriskInsurance Company to honour its contract with him.
Judge Anthony Millar ruled in favour of Govender and ordered the insurer to pay Govender R1 827 500 plus interest and legal costs.
The court was told that on the night of February 22, 2019, Govender lost control of the vehicle and it hit a lamp pole on the island separating the north-bound and south-bound lanes of the road.
Govender testified that he and his mother had attended a work function in the Pretoria area. They were returning to Joburg later that night when it began to rain heavily.
He said he had been travelling at a normal speed – about 80km/h – and put on his emergency lights to make his vehicle more visible to other traffic.
His Ferrari suddenly pulled to the left and he instinctively corrected it by steering to the right. But he lost control of the vehicle when it started to spin. The vehicle spun a number of times and eventually came to a stop when it hit the lamp-post.
He noticed that the vehicle was almost split in two.
Govender could not explain why he had lost control of the vehicle, but said he thought that he had hit a puddle in the road.
The insurer’s assessor recommended that the accident be investigated, as he said the extent of the damage led him to believe that Govender drove too fast that night.
He arranged for the Ferrari’s “black boxes” to be made available to the investigator.
These boxes are computer modules that record real-time data relating to the performance of the vehicle, speed and other technical data.
The investigator, however, was unable to access any of the data in the black box. The manufacturer of the vehicle – Ferrari – is the only party who can access the data and was unwilling to assist.
The court had to determine whether, having regard to the prevailing weather conditions, Govender had been travelling at a speed which was so excessive that it amounted to recklessness.
“Irrespective of the speed at which the plaintiff (Govender) was travelling, it seems an important consideration first and foremost is whether the presence of water on the road in a manner and a quantity which was likely to cause hydro or aquaplaning, was foreseeable,” Judge Anthony Millar said.
The evidence established that the road surface was good and with a chamber to the right which would have caused water to flow across it from the left to the right towards the stormwater drain.
The judge said it could very well have been that there was aquaplaning of the vehicle due to the excess water, which led to Govender losing control.
Judge Millar said there was also no evidence that Govender in fact speeded or that he knew or foresaw that the road conditions could have caused him to lose control of the vehicle. He concluded that Govender did not act recklessly and said the insurer was obliged to pay him the money.