Smith -v- Littlewoods Organisation Limited (Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary, third party); Maloco -v- Littlewoods Organisation Ltd; HL 1987

References: [1987] AC 241, [1987] 2 WLR 480, [1987] UKHL 3, 1987 SC (HL) 37
Links: Bailii
Coram: Lord Griffiths, Lord Mackay of Clashfern
The defendant acquired a semi derelict cinema with a view to later development of the site. A fire started by others spread to the pursuer’s adjoining property.
Held: The defendants were not liable in negligence. The intervention of a third party to set a fire was not sufficiently foreseeable, even though there had been an earlier fire. Had it been foreseeable, no doubt the pursuers would themselves have warned the defendants of the risk. What a reasonable man is bound to foresee are the probable consequences of his own actions. To be held responsible for the action of others some clear basis must be found for anticipating their action. The House doubted the existence of a touchstone which could be applied as a universal test. It should be left to the good sense of judges ‘to apply realistic standards in conformity with generally accepted patterns of behaviour’ when deciding whether an occupier should be liable in negligence for a danger created on his property by the act of a trespasser.
Lord Goff identified four circumstances in which a party may become liable for the acts of third parties; (a) where there is a special relationship between defendant and plaintiff based on an assumption of responsibility by the defendant; (b) where there is a special relationship between the defendant and the third party based on control by the defendant; (c) where defendant is responsible for a state of danger which may [be] exploited by a third party; and (d) where the defendant is responsible for property which may be used by third party to cause damage.
This case cites:

  • Cited – Bourhill -v- Young’s Executor HL ([1943] AC 92, [1943] SC (HL) 78, 1943 SLT 105, Bailii, [1942] UKHL 5)
    When considering claims for damages for shock, the court only recognised the action lying where the injury by shock was sustained ‘through the medium of the eye or the ear without direct contact.’ Wright L said: ‘No doubt, it has long ago been . .
  • Cited – Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd -v- Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound) (No 2) PC ([1967] 2 AC 617, Bailii, [1966] UKPC 1)
    When considering the need to take steps to avoid injury, the court looked to the nature of defendant’s activity. There was no social value or cost saving in this defendant’s activity. ‘In the present case there was no justification whatever for . .
  • Cited – Bolton -v- Stone HL ([1951] AC 850, [1951] 1 All ER 1078, Bailii, [1951] UKHL 2)
    The plaintiff was injured by a prodigious and unprecedented hit of a cricket ball over a distance of 100 yards. He claimed damages in negligence
    Held:When looking at the duty of care the court should ask whether the risk was not so remote that . .
  • Cited – Goldman -v- Hargrave PC ([1967] 1 AC 645, [1966] 3 WLR 513, [1966] 2 All ER 989, Bailii, [1966] UKPC 2, Bailii, [1966] UKPC 12)
    (Australia) In Western Australia, a red gum tree was struck by lightning and set on fire. The appellant had the tree cut down, but took no reasonable steps by spraying the fire with water to prevent the fire from spreading, believing that it would . .
  • Cited – Dorset Yacht Co Ltd -v- Home Office HL ([1970] AC 1004, [1970] 2 WLR 1140, [1970] 2 All ER 94, Bailii, [1970] UKHL 2)
    A yacht was damaged by boys who had escaped from the supervision of prison officers in a nearby Borstal institution. The boat owners sued the Home Office alleging negligence by the prison officers.
    Held: Any duty of a borstal officer to use . .
  • Cited – Evans -v- Glasgow District Council ([1978] CLY 1789)
    . .
  • Cited – Lamb -v- Camden London Borough Council ([1981] 2 All ER 408, [1981] 2 WLR 1038)
    The property had been left vacant for repairs and then taken over by squatters. A claim was made in respect of the liability of the land-owners for the damage caused by the squatters.
    Held: The damage was too remote. The correct test was not . .
  • Cited – Perl (P) (Exporters) -v- Camden London Borough Council CA ([1984] QB 342, [1983] 2531, [1983] 3 All ER 161)
    . .
  • Cited – Glasgow Corporation -v- Muir HL ([1943] AC 448, [1943] 2 All ER 44, [1943] SC (HL) 3, Bailii, [1943] UKHL 2)
    The House considered the proper test to define the standard of care that must be adopted by the reasonable man in a claim for negligence.
    Held: Lord Clauson said that the test is whether the person owing the duty of care ‘had in contemplation . .
  • Cited – King -v- Liverpool City Council CA ([1986] CLY 2260, [1986] 3 All ER 544, [1986] 1 WLR 890, [1986] 1 EGLR 181, (1986) 84 LGR 871)
    The plaintiff was the tenant of a flat in a block of flats owned by the defendant. When the flat immediately above the plaintiff’s flat became vacant, she requested the defendant to board it up so as to secure it against intruders. The defendant . .

This case is cited by:

  • Cited – Susan Moore -v- Kirklees Metropolitan Council CA (Bailii, [1999] EWCA Civ 1326)
    The claimant was employed as a dinner lady at a junior school. Whilst supervising playtime, a child jumped on her, causing her injury. The council appealed a finding of negligence. The boy had been recognised as being in need of special management . .
  • Cited – The Attorney General -v- Hartwell PC (PC, Bailii, [2004] UKPC 12, Times 27-Feb-04, PC, Gazette 25-Mar-04, [2004] 1 WLR 1273, [2004] PIQR 27)
    PC (The British Virgin Islands) A police officer had taken the police revolver, and used it to shoot the claimant. It was alleged that the respondent police force were vicariously liable for his acts and also . .
  • Cited – Gabriel -v- Kirklees Metropolitan Council CA (Bailii, [2004] EWCA Civ 345, Times 12-Apr-04)
    The claimant (aged 6) sought damages after being hurt when other children playing on a building site threw stones from the site, hitting him as he passed by.
    Held: The case raised questions of law and it was incumbent on the judge to provide . .
  • Cited – Davies -v- Stockwell (T/A R & R Stockwell Builiding Contractors) CA (Bailii, [2005] EWCA Civ 444)
    The defendant sought leave to appeal against a finding of laibility after the claimant was injured tripping over a paving stone left by the defendant demolishing a property. Orange bunting strung between posts had been left around the site . .
  • Cited – B & B -v- A County Council CA (Bailii, [2006] EWCA Civ 1388, )
    The claimants sought damages from the defendant local authority after their identities had been wrongfully revealed to the natural parents of the adoptees leading to a claimed campaign of harassment. The adopters has specifically requested that . .
  • Cited – Hertfordshire Police -v- Van Colle; Smith -v- Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL (Bailii, [2008] UKHL 50, [2008] 3 All ER 977, [2008] 3 WLR 593, Times 01-Aug-08, HL, [2009] PIQR P2, [2008] UKHRR 967, [2008] HRLR 44, [2009] 1 AC 225, [2009] 1 Cr App R 12, [2009] LS Law Medical 1)
    A prosecution witness was murdered by the accused shortly before his trial. The parents of the deceased alleged that the failure of the police to protect their son was a breach of article 2.
    Held: The House was asked ‘If the police are alerted . .
  • Cited – Prison Officers Association -v- Iqbal CA (Bailii, [2009] EWCA Civ 1312, Times, [2010] 2 WLR 1054, [2010] QB 732)
    The claimant, a prisoner, alleged false imprisonment. The prison officers had taken unlawful strike action leaving him to be confined within his cell and unable to be involved in his normal activities. In view of the strike, a governor’s order had . .

Leave a Reply