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Tort XXIV - Causation X

In Langley v Dray (1998) the defendant was driving a stolen car and while he was on the motorway, he was spotted by a policeman. The plaintiff, the policeman, gave chase and the defendant stepped on the accelerator. A motorway speed chase ensued. The policeman subsequently lost control of his car and there was an accident. The plaintiff sued.
In line with the decision with Haynes v Harwood (1935) the court found in favor of the policeman. Let’s apply the duty, breach and causation requirements.
The standard that is imposed on any driver is that of the reasonable and competent driver or road-user and this standard applies even if the driver is a learner-driver see Nettleship v Weston (1971) and it is regardless of whether the defendant is ill or is struck by a sudden illness see Roberts v Ramsbottom (1980). Hence there was a duty of care owed in that the defendant had to exercise the care of a reasonable and competent driver.
The test that is to be applied is the objective test or that of…

Tort XXIII - Causation IX

In John Munroe (Acrylics) Ltd v London Fire and Civil Defense Authority (1997) the fire brigade was called in to put out a fire on an adjoining property. The firemen inspected the area and once they’d finished, they left the scene believing that the fire had been put out but failed to take note of some soldering debris. Once they had left, the fire started again and spread to the plaintiff’s property and caused damaged to his property. The plaintiff sued but was unsuccessful.
The court held that there was no duty owed. The standard of care that is imposed on the fire brigade is similar to that which is owed by the police and applying the principle in Hill v Chief Constable of Yorkshire (1989) the court found that imposing a duty under the circumstances would impede the fire brigade and would not allow them to carry out their duties efficiently. It would lead to defensive firefighting in that firemen would be more concerned or may become preoccupied with the liabilities that may be impo…

Tort XXII - Causation VIII

In Margereson & Hancock v JW Roberts Ltd (1996) two children, the plaintiffs, who grew up playing close to a factory, later had cancer because they were exposed to asbestos dust from the factory. The plaintiffs sued.
Despite the fact that the damage suffered was removed from the time the plaintiffs were close to the factory, they were successful. The court held that it was foreseeable that the defendants’ negligence in allowing the contaminants to escape would lead to some type of illness or other to anyone that came in contact with the pollutants and that illness may be detached from the time the victims were exposed to the contaminants.
Delay in the impact of being exposed to pollutants is a facet of environmental damage and illnesses incurred as a result of being exposed to fumes and dusts released from factories often manifest or materialize at a later time or place.
In OLL v Secretary of State for the Home Department (1996) 8 boys, 2 teachers and an instructor were lost during a…

Tort XXI - Causation VII

In Barrett v Ministry of Defense (1995) the plaintiff’s husband was working in the navy and was stationed in Norway. On the night of the incident he’d been drinking heavily and caught the attention of a senior officer who then instructed a petty officer to make sure he was well and to get him back to his bunk. The petty officer did as he was instructed and checked on him on a few occasions but despite that, he died during the night. His wife, the plaintiff brought an action in court alleging that her husband’s death could have been prevented had it not been for the defendants’ negligence.
The court held that under normal circumstances the navy did not owe her husband a duty of care but the court decided that a duty of care was owed in this instance because a senior officer had taken charge of matters.
If the conduct of the plaintiff’s husband did not come to the attention of the senior officer or if he was drinking around the corner somewhere unknown to anyone, a duty of care wouldn’t h…

Tort XX - Causation VI

The decision in Kirkham v Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police (1990) must be compared with the decision in Knight v Home Office (1990). The case concerns a 21-year-old boy who had suicidal tendencies and was imprisoned. The prison authorities were aware of his condition and the authorities kept a constant watch on the boy at regular intervals. Despite the precautions that were taken the boy committed suicide and his parents sued.
It was held that the prison authorities had taken relevant care by ensuring that the boy was kept under frequent watch. A prison however was not a hospital for the psychiatrically ill and the plaintiff could not expect the same level of care as one would expect from a hospital. The prison authorities were only required to exercise the level of care that was required for a prison and the prison authorities in this instance were deemed to have done just that. The plaintiff was unsuccessful.
In Hale v London Underground Ltd (1993), the case concerns a…

Tort XIX - Causation V

We have previously examined the scope of duty that is owed by the police and rescue workers and the duty that is owed by third parties to them. Are similar rules applicable to other components, arms or branches of the emergency services like the fire brigade?
In Ogwo v Taylor (1987) the defendant negligently set fire to his house while trying to burn off some paint on the walls, with a blow torch, beneath the roof of his house and inadvertently set fire to the whole house. The fire brigade was called in and in order to put the fire out the firemen had to make their way to the roof of the house where the heat was most intense and despite the protective gear that the firemen had on, one of the firemen, the plaintiff, suffered serious burns. The plaintiff sued and was successful.
Could the defendant have raised the defense of volenti? While all members of the emergency services agree to accept some risk when they sign up, it is a question of the level of risk that they’d accepted or agreed…