• Created by: Nikki
  • Created on: 09-04-15 14:01

Break in chain of causation

Act should be all of the following:

  • positive act
  • deliberate (intentional)
  • voluntary (no under pressure or mental incapacity)
  • informed (knowing the consequences)
  • unreasonable

Must establish all 5 things and that the positive act contributed to the harm suffered by C

  • Haynes v Harwood (1935) -- no break -- C's actions were reasonable
  • Hyett v Great Western Railway Company (1948) -- no break -- C's actions reasonable
  • Lagden v O'Connor (2004) -- no break -- C's actions reasonable
  • The Oropesa (1943) -- no break -- actions were reasonable
  • Wieland v Cyril Lord Carpets Ltd (1969) -- no break -- C's actions reasonable
  • McKew v Holland & Hannen & Cubitts (Scotland) Ltd (1969( -- break -- C's action unreasonable
  • Lynch v Knight (1861) -- break -- husband's actions unreasonable
  • Knightley v Johns (1982) -- break -- actions deliberate and unreasonable
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Don't amount to break in chain of causation

Even if someone has a legal duty to act, their failure to do so will not break chain of causation

BUT if C allows D's tort to cause her some kind of harm that C could have easily avoided, C might be barred from suing for that harm because C was under a duty to mitigate the harm she suffered

  • McAuley v London Transport Executive (1958)
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Natural Events; Foreseeability


Contended that an unforeseeable natural event can break chain

Explains lack of causation in lightning problem

BUT, such a case could be explained as an example of coincidence --> Thug's stabbing Unlucky didn't materially increase risk he would die from electrocution


Not relevant of itself

Fact that act was foreseeable doesn't stop it from satisfying criteria and breaking chain

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Medical expenditure; Exceptions


If A tortuously injures B and B opts to use private medical treatment, A cannot argue that B's decision to 'go private' broke the chain of causation


Number of occasions where courts will not find that a DIVU act broke chain of causation

Main situation = where doing so would deprive D's duty of care of any force

  • Stansbie v Troman (1948) -- decorator who left client's house unlocked -- theif's act did not break chain of causation
  • Reeves v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (2000) -- person who hangs themself whilst in police custody does not break chain of causation
  • Environment Agency v Empress Car Co (Abertilly) Ltd (1999)
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Actionability: the basics

Relevant to all cases, not just negligence


  • normal rule -- unforeseeable losses are too remote to be actionable
  • intentional torts -- never too remote, no matter how unforeseeable
  • non-intentional torts committed intentionally -- might also be an exception

Scope of duty

  • loss falls outside of 'scope of duty' if it is the wrong kind of loss -- Gorris v Scott (1874)

Other reasons

  • public policy concerns -- explains result of Gray v Thames Trains Ltd (2009)
  • allowing the claim would bring the law into disrepute 
    • reason for ruling against C in McFarlane v Tayside Health Board (2000) --> idea of present a baby as harm rather than a benefit seemed wrong
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Remoteness of damage

Foreseeability test -- reasonably foreseeable at the time A committed his tort that someone like B would suffer that kind of loss as a result of A's commiting that tort

Not so straightforward in application

Jolley v Sutton LBC (2000) --> injury of given description must be foreseeable --> not the particulars --> description formulated by reference to nature of risk which ought to have been foreseen (Hoffmann) --> wider type/description of harm not the specific

'fantastic or far-fetched' risks do not satisfy the requirements of it being a 'real risk'

More leniency towards children --> more expansive approach to the type of loss that is reasonably foreseeable?

  • Jolley v Sutton LBC (2000)
  • Hughes v Lord Advocate (1963)

Less lenient in cases not involving children?

  • Doughty v Turner Manufactury Co (1964); Tremain v Pike (1969)
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Eggshell skull rule

'thin skull rule' -- take someone as your find them

If it was foreseeable that A would suffer some kind of physical injury as a result of B's tort, but because A has a pre-existing condition, A suffers a much owrse injury as a result of B's tort, that much worse injury will not count as a remote consequence of B's tort

  • Smith v Leech Brian (1962)

Same rule applies to 'eggshell personality' 

  • Brice v Brown (1984)
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Economic loss consequent on physical injury


  • A has committed tort in relation to B
  • B has suffered some kind of physical injury
  • if B can recover compensation for the physical injury
  • B will be able to sue A for compensation in respect of any loss of income or other economic losses flowing from that injury, whether or not they were a foreseeable consequence

Same rule does NOT apply to property

BUT if you negligently damage someone else's property, you must compensate them for full value of that property, not matter how unforeseeable

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Intentional torts

Tort that can ONLY be committed intentionally

Loss will not have been a remote consequence of A's intentional tort if it was a direct consequence of it --> does NOT have to be reasonably foreseeable

If A has deliberately committed a non-intentional tort --> seems should be treated in same way as an intentional tort

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