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Important Cases on Damages under Tort Law


Important Cases in Tort Law
Important Cases in Tort Law

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Important Cases on Remoteness of Damage


The Wagon Mound Case


In Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd. v. Morts Dock and Engg. Co. Ltd., commonly known as the Wagon Mound case, the Privy Council addressed the issue of remoteness of damage. The case involved a ship chartered by Overseas Tankship Ltd., from which oil spilled into a harbour due to the negligence of the ship's crew. 



Subsequently, a fire broke out at Morts Dock Company's wharf, caused by molten metal coming into contact with floating cotton waste saturated with the spilled oil. The trial court held Overseas Tankship Ltd. liable under the rule of directness, but the Privy Council overturned this decision.



The Privy Council rejected the directness rule established in Re Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd. and emphasised the importance of reasonable foreseeability in determining liability.



They held that Overseas Tankship Ltd. was not liable because a reasonable person could not have foreseen the oil spill causing a fire. The case established the principle that a defendant is only liable for damage that could reasonably be foreseen, even if their negligence directly caused the harm.

 
 

Hughes v. Lord Advocate


In Hughes v. Lord Advocate, workers employed by the post office left a manhole surrounded by paraffin lamps unguarded. A child entered the area, played with a lamp, and caused an explosion, resulting in severe injuries to the child.



The House of Lords held that while the extent of the injuries was unforeseeable, the type of harm (burns) was foreseeable due to the presence of the lamps. The case reinforced the principle that a defendant is liable for foreseeable harm, even if the extent of the harm exceeds what was anticipated.



Doughty v. Turner Manufacturing Co. Ltd.


In Doughty v. Turner Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a worker was injured when an asbestos cement cover fell into a cauldron of hot molten liquid, causing an explosion. The court held that the resulting damage from the explosion was not foreseeable, as the cover had been purchased from reputable manufacturers, and there was no reason to anticipate serious consequences from its falling. This case clarified that liability is limited to harm that could reasonably be foreseen.



S.C.M. (United Kingdom) Ltd. v. W.J. Whittall & Sons


In S.C.M. (United Kingdom) Ltd. v. W.J. Whittall & Sons, damage occurred to an electric cable alongside a road due to the negligence of the defendants' workmen. As a result, there was a power failure at the plaintiff's typewriter factory, leading to damage to materials and machines and loss of production.



The court held that the defendants could foresee the consequences of a power failure, given their knowledge that the electric cables supplied power to nearby factories. This case reaffirmed the principle that defendants are liable for harm that could reasonably be foreseen.

 
 



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