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Law of Torts (Landmark Judgements)

Updated: May 4


Law of Torts (Landmark Marriage)
Law of Torts (Landmark Marriage)

Landmark judgment in tort law topics:-



GENERAL PRINCIPLES 


Mayor of Bradford Corporation v. Pickles (1895) A.C. 587

It was established that even if harm is inflicted with malicious intent, legal action cannot be pursued unless the plaintiff demonstrates actual injury.


Smt. S.R. Venkataraman v. Union of India, AIR 1979 SC 49 

The concept of malice in law denotes a deliberate action carried out without legal justification or excuse. A wrongful intention is assumed when an unlawful act is committed without valid justification.


GENERAL DEFENCES 


Hall v. Brooklands Auto Racing Club, (1932) All. ER 221

The court ruled that the injured spectator had implicitly assumed the risk of injury by attending the event.


Padmavati v. Dugganaika, (1975) ACJ 222 

Two individuals hitched a ride in a jeep, which later toppled due to a wheel bolt failure. The driver could not be held liable because the passengers voluntarily joined the ride, invoking the principle of volenti non fit injuria, and the incident was deemed an accident.


Smith v. Charles Baker and Sons, (1891) A.C. 325

Where an employee was injured by falling rocks in a stone quarry, the court determined that mere awareness of risk did not constitute consent, and thus, the maxim volenti non fit injuria did not apply.


Haynes v. Harwood, (1935) 1 K.B. 146

A police constable intervened to stop runaway horses, sustaining injuries. The defendant's negligence in leaving the horses unattended negated the defence of volenti non fit injuria.


Nichols v. Marshland, (1876)

Defendant created some artificial lakes on his land. There was extraordinary rainfall (heaviest in human memory) and as a result of it water overflowed and washed away the nearby bridge of plaintiff The defendant was not held liable because the loss occurred due to an act of God. 


Bird v. Holbrook, (1828)

A trespasser triggered a spring gun set by the defendant and was injured. The court ruled in favour of the trespasser, as the force used exceeded reasonable necessity.


Cope v. Sharpe, (1912) 1 K.B. 496

The defendant entered the plaintiff's land to prevent a fire from spreading. Since the action was deemed reasonably necessary, the defendant was not held liable for trespass.


Vaughan v. Taff Vale Rail Co., (1860)

Sparks from the engine of a rail company set fire to the appellant’s woods on adjoining land. It was held that since the respondent had taken care to prevent emission of spark they were held not liable. 

 
 

REMOTENESS OF DAMAGE


Glasgow Corp v. Muir, (1943) A.C. 488

In the case where the Defendant Corporation allowed a picnic party on their premises, during which members were carrying large gallons of tea through an area where children were playing, an accident occurred when one of the party members lost their grip, injuring several children.


The court ruled in favour of the defendants, stating that they could not be held liable as the injury was not reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances.


Bolton v. Stone, & (1951) A.C. 850

The person on the road was injured by a ball hit by a player on a cricket ground. The court held that the defendant was not negligent as the injury was not foreseeable.


Latimer v. A.E.C. Ltd, (1953) A.C. 643

Where heavy rains caused flooding in a factory, resulting in a slippery floor due to a mixture of water and oily substances, the defendants took diligent precautions by spreading sawdust to mitigate the risk.


However, despite these efforts, some oily patches persisted, leading to an injury suffered by the plaintiff. The court ruled in favour of the defendant, affirming that they had taken all reasonable measures to prevent harm, thereby absolving them of liability.


Greenland v. Chaplin, (1850) 5 Ex. 243 

The ruling established that individuals are obliged to anticipate and take measures to prevent all foreseeable consequences that may result from their actions, thereby emphasising the importance of exercising reasonable foresight and caution to mitigate potential harm.


Smith v. London & Western Railway Co., (1870)

The court established the test of directness, where the railway company's negligence in maintaining a heap of grass trimmings near the track led to a fire ignited by sparks from a passing engine.


Despite the company's inability to foresee the accident, they were held liable because the fire spread to the plaintiff's cottage due to high winds. This case affirmed that liability may still be assigned if the chain of events leading to harm is direct, even if the specific outcome was unforeseen.


Re Polemis and  Furness , Withy & Western Railway Co. (1921) 3 K.B. 560

The court rejected the test of reasonable foresight. The defendants had chartered a ship to transport cargo, including Benzene and Petrol. Leakage from the tins containing these substances resulted in their accumulation in the ship's hold.


Subsequently, due to the negligence of a servant of the defendants, a plank fell into the hold, causing a spark and igniting a fire that destroyed the ship. The court held the defendants liable for all direct consequences of their servant's negligence, regardless of foreseeability. 


Overseas Tankship (U.K.)Ltd. v. Morts Dock and Engg. Co. Ltd.

A significant amount of oil was negligently spilled into the water from the Wagon Mound Ship. The oil was carried by the wind to a location approximately 600 feet away, where a wharf was undergoing repairs.


A molten metal from the repair work fell onto the floating oil and ignited, causing damage to the ship. The court held that the test of reasonable foresight was more appropriate in determining liability. 

 
 

VICARIOUS LIABILITY 


State Bank of India v. Shyama Devi, AIR 1978 SC 1263

An employee of the bank accepted cash and cheques from a friend under the pretence of depositing them into the bank. However, the employee misappropriated the funds for personal use.


The court ruled that the bank could not be held liable for the employee's actions because the misappropriation occurred in the employee's personal capacity and did not involve the bank's official duties or responsibilities.


State of Maharashtra v. Kanchanmala Vijay Singh, AIR 1995 SC 2499 

The Supreme Court held that if an unauthorised and wrongful act of the servant is not so connected with the authorised act as to the mode of doing that authorised act then the master is not liable


Beard v. London General Omnibus Co., (1900) 2 QB 530

At the end of the journey the driver of the bus went to take dinner and during his absence the conductor drove the bus in order to turn it around and in that process negligently caused the accident. In this case the master was not held liable since the driving was not the kind of act the conductor was authorised to do.


Limpus v. London General Omnibus Co., (1862) 1 H & L525

There was a specific instruction from the master that the bus driver was not supposed to indulge in the race with another bus. In defiance of the specific instruction the driver engaged in a race and caused an accident. It was held that in spite of the prohibition from the master the servant was still in the course of employment and the master was held liable. 


STRICT & ABSOLUTE LIABILITY 


Rylands v. Fletcher, (1868)L.R. 3 H.L. 330  

The rule established in this case is commonly referred to as the rule of strict liability. In this particular case, the defendant had a reservoir constructed on his land by independent contractors.


The reservoir contained unused shafts, which the contractors failed to notice. When water was filled into the reservoir, it burst through these shafts and flooded the neighbouring coal fields owned by the plaintiff.


The court held the defendant liable, noting that if an individual brings onto their land anything that is likely to escape and cause harm, they are prima facie responsible for all the damage that naturally results from such an escape.


M.C.Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 1086


The Supreme Court evolved a new principle of absolute liability. This rule is not subject to any exceptions as laid down in Ryland’s case. 

 
 

NEGLIGENCE


 Smith v. London and South Western Railway Co., (1870) L.R. 6 CP 14

It was established that if an act authorised by statute is carried out negligently, legal action can be pursued. In this instance, the servants of the railway company negligently left trimmings of grass and hedges near the railway line.


Sparks from passing engines ignited the nearby materials, resulting in damage. The court held the railway company liable due to their negligence in allowing the hazardous conditions to persist near the railway line.


Jacob Mathew. State of Punjab, AIR 2005 SC 3180 

Negligence is a breach of duty caused by omission to do something which a reasonable man guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent man would not do.


Donoghue v. Stevenson, (1932) A.C. 562

In this case, the House of Lords established the modern concept of negligence, famously known as the "neighbour principle." Lord Atkin, in his judgement, articulated that individuals must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions that could reasonably foreseeable cause harm to their neighbours.


He defined a "neighbour" as "persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions that are being called into question."


This ruling laid the foundation for the duty of care owed by one individual to another in negligence cases, significantly influencing the development of tort law worldwide.


Municipal Corporation, Delhi v. Subhagwanti, AIR 1966 SC 1750

Clock tower situated in Chand ini Chowk collapsed. It belonged to Municipal Corporation Delhi and was under their control. Trial court and High Court applied the maxim res ipsa loquitur and held that it was the duty of the Municipal Corporation to carry out periodical examinations and repair the tower.


The Supreme Court held that this maxim is applied when the circumstances surrounding the thing which caused the damage was under the control and management of the defendant and happening does not occur in normal course without negligence.



NUISANCE


Dr. Ram Raj Singh v. Babulal AIR 1982 All. 285

The defendant initiated the operation of a brick grinding machine in premises adjacent to those of the plaintiff. As a medical practitioner, the plaintiff and his patients experienced inconvenience due to the dust generated by the machine.


The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff and awarded special damages, recognizing the adverse impact of the defendant's activities on the plaintiff's profession and well-being.


RadheyShyam v. Gur Prasad AIR 1978 All. 86

The court determined that operating a flour mill in a residential area constituted a nuisance due to the disturbances it caused to the surrounding residents.


Mayor of Bradford Corp. v. Pickles (1895) AC 587

The court clarified that an act which is lawful in itself does not automatically become a nuisance solely because it is performed with malicious intent.

 
 

DEFAMATION 


 Dixon v. Holden, (1869)7EQ488

A man’s reputation is considered to be a property and in some cases more important than proper


D.P. Chaudhary v. Manjulata, AIR 1997 Raj. 170

The court held the defendants liable for making false and unjustified statements about Manjulata. The defendants disseminated a news item falsely alleging that Manjulata eloped with a boy at night.


As a result of this false information, Manjulata's reputation was tarnished, her marriage prospects were affected, and she faced ridicule in society. The court found the defendants responsible for the damage caused by their unfounded statements and held them liable for their actions.


Tolley v.J.S. Fry and Sons Ltd., (1931) A.C. 333

Plaintiff was an amateur golf champion. There was an advertisement in the newspaper which portrayed the plaintiff  playing golf and a packet of chocolate protruding out of his ) pocket.


The plaintiff contended that the caricature showed that the plaintiff did the advertisement for gain and reward and it compromised his position as amateur golfer. It was held that it was innuendo and hence defamatory. 


Cassidy v. Daily Mirror Newspaper Ltd., (1929)2K.B. 331 

The plaintiff, Mrs. Cassidy, sued the newspaper for publishing a photograph of her husband, Mr. Cassidy, along with an article stating that his engagement had been arranged with Miss X. Mrs. Cassidy alleged that the implication of the article was that Mr. Cassidy was not her lawful husband and that they lived together in unlawful cohabitation.


The court held that the innuendo, or implied meaning, suggested by the article was indeed established, and Mrs. Cassidy's reputation was consequently harmed. The fact that the newspaper may have been unaware of the implications of its article did not absolve it from liability.


Therefore, the court found the newspaper liable for defamation, even though the publication may have been made innocently or without malicious intent.


MALICIOUS PROSECUTION


West Bengal State Electricity Board vs Dilip Kumar Ray, AIR 2007 SC 976

Malicious prosecution means a judicial proceeding instituted by one against another from a wrongful or improper motive and without a probable cause. Supreme Court held that there are two essential elements for constituting malicious prosecution:-


  1.  There is no probable cause for instituting the prosecution complained of;

  2. Such proceedings ended in favour of the plaintiff.


Nagendra Nath Ray v. Basanta Das LR (1929) 47 Cal. 25

It was held that proceeding before police authorities is no prosecution.


Hicks v. Faulkner, (1878) 8 QBD167 

The court established that reasonable and probable cause exists when the defendant possesses adequate grounds to believe that the plaintiff is likely guilty of the alleged crime or wrongdoing.


This standard serves as a criterion for determining whether a defendant's actions, such as initiating legal proceedings or making accusations against the plaintiff, were justified based on the information available to them at the time.


If the defendant can demonstrate that they had reasonable and probable cause for their actions, they may be shielded from liability for any resulting harm to the plaintiff.

 
 



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