Remoteness of damage

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Remoteness of damage

  1. 1. Damage – Causation in law<br />By Kenisha Browning<br />
  2. 2. Where there is factual causation, the claimant<br />may still fail to win his case, as the damage<br />suffered may be too remote. The breach of<br />duty may have significant results, but the<br />defendant will not be liable for everything that<br />can be traced back to the original act. Clearly<br />there are some farfetched results that are not<br />foreseeable and therefore are not recoverable. <br />Causation in Law<br />
  3. 3. For example, consider the negligent driving of someone<br />who bumped into the back of my car. There are almost<br />infinite consequences: the car suffers very minor<br />damage ( a broken tail light); I might miss the train; I<br />might not get the job, the interview for which I was<br />travelling to when the accident occurred; the reason I did<br />not get the job was that I was late for the interview; I<br />might then be unemployed for many months; I might<br />have to sell my car to cover living expenses as I have<br />little income ( being unemployed); I might then buy a<br />cheap car that has not got modern safety features; I<br />might crash that car and be injured, become depressed<br />and commit suicide – all because of a minor traffic<br />accident. The law has to draw the line and say that some<br />events are too remote to be considered to have been<br />caused by the negligent act. <br />
  4. 4. The test is that the defendant is liable for damage only if it is the<br />foreseeable consequence of the breach of duty. The case that this<br />Principe stems from is Wagon Mound. In that case, the defendant<br />spilt a quantity of oil whilst refuelling another ship. The oil spread<br />over the water to the claimant’s wharf, which was some distance<br />away. The claimant was carrying out repair work to a ship. This<br />involved welding. Molten metal ( part of the welding) from the<br />claimant’s wharf fell on floating cotton waste which smouldered<br />and then ignited the oil on the water. The claimant’s wharf was<br />severely damaged by fire. The defendants did not know and could<br />not reasonably have been expected to know that the oil could be<br />set alight when spread on water.<br />Wagon Mound No.1 (1961)<br />
  5. 5. They had made enquiries about the possibility<br />of fire as soon as the oil was noticed and<br />suspended welding whilst the situation was<br />checked. They were told that it was safe to<br />continue and took precautions to stop<br />flammable waste falling into the water. Despite<br />this, the fire started. The court decided that the<br />damage by the oil was foreseeable but the<br />damage by the fire was too remote and was not<br />foreseeable. <br />Wagon Mound No.1 (1961)<br />
  6. 6. Remoteness of damage – the kind of damage must be reasonably foreseeable<br />The principle here is that as long as the type of damage is<br />foreseeable, it does not matter that the form it takes is<br />unusual. A classic example of this is Bradford V Robinson<br />Rentals (1967). The claimant was required by his employer<br />to take an old van from Exeter to Bedford and collect a new<br />one. The weather was very cold and there was advice not to<br />travel unless it was necessary. The vans had no heater, and<br />the windscreen kept freezing over, so Bradford had to drive<br />with the window open. The old van’s radiator leaked and had<br />to be topped up regularly. Bradford suffered frostbite. It was<br />foreseeable that the would suffer some cold-related injury,<br />so the defendants were liable for his frostbite even though<br />that is very unusual. The reason for the claimant succeeding is<br />that frostbite is merely an extreme form of injury from being<br />cold.<br />
  7. 7. Similarly, in Hughes V Lord Advocate (1963) the<br />claimant succeeded. Two boys took a paraffin<br />warning lamp down an unattended open manhole.<br />On emerging from the hole, one of the boys<br />knocked the lamp back into the hole, causing an<br />explosion, and suffered sever burns. Since the risk<br />of injury by burning was foreseeable, this<br />extremely unlikely form of burning meant that<br />there was factual and legal causation and the<br />boys’ claim succeeded. This is another example of<br />case law helping develop safety standards, as this<br />method of warning is no longer used. <br />Remoteness of damage – the kind of damage must be reasonably foreseeable<br />
  8. 8. However, in Doughty V Turner Asbestos (1964),<br />the claimant was burned when an asbestos lit was<br />knocked into a vat of molten metal; the lid slid into<br />the liquid with no noticeable effect for a few<br />minutes. However, a chemical reaction then caused<br />a violent eruption that scientific knowledge at the<br />time did not expect to happen. It could be<br />foreseen that knocking things into the liquid might<br />cause a splash of molten metal, but this was an<br />event of a wholly different type from that which<br />could have been foreseen. Therefore, the claim failed<br />as the result was not reasonably foreseeable. <br />Remoteness of damage – the kind of damage must be reasonably foreseeable<br />
  9. 9. This is similar to the concept in criminal law. A<br />person’s liability in negligence is not extinguished or<br />lessened because the claimant had a pre-existing<br />condition that made the injuries worse. A case that<br />illustrates the principle is Smith V Leech Brain (1962).<br />In that case, the claimant suffered a very minor splash<br />by molten metal that caused a burn on his face. The<br />burn triggered his pre-existing cancerous condition,<br />and the claimant developed cancer. Some minor injury<br />at lease was foreseeable. His extreme reaction was a<br />result of his condition and as the principle is that you<br />take a person as you find them, the claim succeeded. <br />Remoteness of damage – take your victim as you find him.<br />
  10. 10. In Gabriel V Kirklees Metropolitan Council<br />(2004), the claimant was six years old. He was<br />walking past a building site owned by the local<br />council in Huddersfield, when he was hit in the<br />eye by mud thrown by children playing on the<br />site. The site was not fenced at that time. It<br />was decided that the correct way to decide<br />whether the council were liable in negligence<br />involved the following tests:<br />Remoteness of damage – a recent example of how a judge should apply the principle of reasonably Foreseeability.<br />
  11. 11. Whether it was reasonably foreseeable that children would go onto the construction site.<br />Whether, whilst on the construction site, it was reasonably foreseeable that the children would play there. <br />Whether it was reasonably foreseeable that, in playing on the site, they would throw whatever came to hand.<br />Whether in playing with material on site it was reasonably foreseeable that they might cause injury to those passing by on the pavement, <br />
  12. 12. Damage caused by the defendant's breach has<br />two principles that equate to factual and legal<br />causation. Factual causation is the ‘but for’<br />test. Legal causation in the idea of remoteness<br />of damage, which has a test of reasonably<br />Foreseeability.<br />Conclusion<br />

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