Negligence - Breach of Duty



'Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do: or doing something which a pruden and reaosnable man would not do' (Alderson, Blyth v Birmingham)

Glasgow Corp v Muir

  • The managaress was sue for allowing the men to carry a tea urn through the shop when the children were present
  • The court decided that she was not liable because it was not reasonable to expect her to anticipate the danger

Hall v Brooklands Auto Club

  • Law does not require perfection, but simply ordinary carefulness
  • It is an objective standard, what counts is what the court thinks a reasonable person would do, not what the individual defendant thinks is reasonable
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Mullin v Richards

  • 2 teenagers were play fighting with rulers and it hit one of the girls in the face and blinded her
  • The court decided that it was not reasonable to expect a young person of 15 to foresee any injury from fighting with rulers

Blake v Galloway

  • The court held that any claimant 'must have taken to have impliedly consented to the risk of a blow on any part of his body, provided that the offending missile was thrown more or less in accordance with the tacit understandings or conventions of the game.'
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Physical and mental incapacity

Roberts v Ramsbottom

  • A driver who lost consciousness and caused an accident was judged to the same standard as a healthy person even though he had suffered a stroke just before getting into the car. The driver did not realise he was ill.

Mansfield v Weetabix Ltd

  • Standard of care should be that of the reasonable person who was not aware that he or she was about to have an episode of low blood sugar
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Claimant's knowledge of defendant's incapacity

Nettleship v Weston

  • C was teaching D to drive during which C was injured
  • Judges believed that C's behaviour suggested he had not consented to the risk of being injured
  • The same standard of care as a qualified driver was applied to D, rather than the lower standard which might have applied if C had consented to the risl
  • This relied on the fact that C had happened to inquire about insurance
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Application of the standard

Probability of injury

  • The activity itself is not determinative, involved damage caused by stray cricket balls (Bolton v Stone)

Hayley v London Electricity Board

  • A blind claimant suceeded as the defendant had taken sufficient precautions to prevent sighted people from falling into a trench, but they were not sufficient for a blind person
  • The court held that there are sufficient blind pedestrians in the general population that the defendant should have anticipated the risk

Gravity of risk

Paris v Stepney BC

  • An employer has to take additional precautions to protect the eyesight of a worker who, to the employer's knowledge, is already partially sighted
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Application of the standard 2

Social value of the activity

Tomlinson v Congleton BC

  • Suggests that an occupier can avoid liability for injuries resulting from dangers that are patently obvious.
  • A man was paralysed after diving into shallow water despite a warning sign
  • There was no duty to make the property sage (as by fencing in all open water) for those who would willingly disregard the posted notices.

Watt v Herts CC

  • There was only 1 other truck available which was strong enough to carry the jack and the officer in charge decided to use it even though it was not fitted with the proper restraints to hold the jack in place
  • On the way, the driver had to stop suddenly and the jack moved an injured one of the fire fighters
  • Court decided that the officer in charge had not been negligent
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Application of the standard 3

Practicability of precautions

Goldman v Hargrave

  • D owed a duty to the neighbour to abate the nuisance which D knew, or should have known, could arise from the natural state of affairs on D's land

Latimer v AEC Ltd

  • An employer did not have to shut down an entire factory overnight simply because part of the floor had become slippery as a result of the escape of some cooling mixture
  • Although the courts take the cost of the precautions into account, judges do not usually consider what financial resources D has to meet that cost
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External Standards

Common Practice

Bolam v Friern Hospital Committee

  • After a mental patient experienced bone facturers during the allegedly negligent administration of therapy, but it applies to professionals in general.
  • The question is whether a professional must be held to the standard of a perfect practicioner or whether - as with ordinary people - perfection is not required

Bolitho v City & Hackney

  • A child suffered brain damage after 2 instances of severe respiratory distress while in hospital
  • Although the doctor advised the nurses how to proceed by phone, she did not attend, which was itself considered negligent
  • The parties were in dispute as to whether the doctor would have and should have inserted a breathing tube after the first incident, based on commonly accepted medical principles.
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