Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee: QBD 1957

Professional to use Skilled Persons Ordinary Care

Negligence was alleged against a doctor.
Held: McNair J directed the jury: ‘Where some special skill is exercised, the test for negligence is not the test of the man on the Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising or professing to have that special skill. It is the duty of a professional man to exercise reasonable skill and care in the light of his actual knowledge and whether he exercised reasonable care cannot be answered by reference to a lesser degree of knowledge than he had, on the grounds that the ordinary competent practitioner would only have had that lesser degree of knowledge. This is not a gloss upon the test of negligence as applied to a professional man. That test is only to be applied where the professional man causes damage because he lacks some knowledge or awareness. The test establishes the degree of knowledge or awareness which he ought to have in that context. Where, however, a professional man has knowledge, and acts or fails to act in way which, having that knowledge he ought reasonably to foresee would cause damage, then, if the other aspects of duty are present, he would be liable in negligence by virtue of the direct application of Lord Atkins’ original test in Donoghue v Stevenson. ‘it is not enough to show that another expert would have given a different answer . . the issue is . . whether [the defendant] has acted in accordance with practices which are regarded as acceptable by a respectable body of opinion in his profession’ and ‘How do you test whether this act or failure is negligent? In an ordinary case it is generally said you judge it by the action of the man in the street. He is the ordinary man . . But where you get a situation which involves some special skill or competence, then the test of whether there has been negligence or not is not the test of the man on the top of the Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill.’

McNair J
[1957] 1 WLR 582, [1957] 2 All ER 118
England and Wales
CitedDonoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson HL 26-May-1932
Decomposed Snail in Ginger Beer Bottle – Liability
The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a . .

Cited by:
AppliedPenney and Others v East Kent Health Authority CA 16-Nov-1999
A cervical smear screener could be liable in negligence if he failed to spot obvious abnormalities in a test result which indicated that further investigation was required. To say this is not to say that such screening tests were expected to achieve . .
AppliedMirza v Birmingham Health Authority QBD 31-Jul-2001
The claimant had undergone heart surgery as an infant in 1976, and claimed damages for professional negligence. The procedure involved a dangerous procedure, a resection of coarctation. As a consequence, the Claimant suffered a number of problems . .
CitedAiredale NHS Trust v Bland FD 19-Nov-1992
The patient had suffered catastrophic injuries in 1989, leaving him in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The doctors sought leave to discontinue life maintaining treatment and medical support. The inevitable result would be his death. The . .
CitedAiredale NHS Trust v Bland HL 4-Feb-1993
Procedures on Withdrawal of Life Support Treatment
The patient had been severely injured in the Hillsborough disaster, and had come to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The doctors sought permission to withdraw medical treatment. The Official Solicitor appealed against an order of the Court . .
AppliedWilsher v Essex Area Health Authority CA 1986
A prematurely-born baby was the subject of certain medical procedures, in the course of which a breach of duty occurred. to ensure that the correct amount was administered it was necessary to insert a catheter into an umbilical artery so that his . .
CitedG and K Ladenbau (UK) Ltd v Crawley and De Reya QBD 25-Apr-1977
The defendant solicitors acted for the plaintiff in the purchase of land, but failed to undertake a commons search which would have revealed an entry which would prevent the client pursuing his development. The defect was discovered only when . .
CitedRegina (N) v Dr M and Others CA 6-Dec-2002
The patient refused consent to treatment in the form of injection of drugs, which her psychiatrists considered to be necessary.
Held: Treatment of this nature infringed the patients rights, and was not to be ordered without clear reason. The . .
CitedSahib Foods Limited and Co-operative Insurance Society Limited v Paskin Kyriakides Sands (A Firm) TCC 3-Mar-2003
The claimants were lessees of premises, and the second claimants had contracted to purchase it. The premises burned down, and the claimants sought damages from the architect respondents. The fire began because of negligence by the claimant’s . .
CitedAiredale NHS Trust v Bland CA 9-Dec-1992
The official Solicitor appealed against a decision that doctors could withdraw medical treatment including artificial nutrition, from a patient in persistent vegetative state.
Held: The doctors sought permission to act in accordance with . .
CitedZubaida v Hargreaves CA 1995
In the general run of actions for negligence against professional men it is not enough to show that another expert would have given a different answer. The issue is whether the defendant acted in accordance with practices which are regarded as . .
CitedSinger and Friedlander Ltd v Wood 1977
Valuers acting competently and professionally may reach widely varying conclusions as to value. There is a permissible margin of error, the ‘bracket’. What can properly be expected from a competent valuer using reasonable care and skill is that his . .
CitedLloyds TSB Bank Plc v Edward Symmons and Partners TCC 12-Mar-2003
The defendants had carried out a survey and valuation for the claimants, who now sought damages alleging that the valuer had miscalculated the area of the premises, omitting certain areas which would affect the value.
Held: In order to make . .
CitedMerivale Moore Plc; Merivale Moore Construction Limited v Strutt and Parker (a Firm) CA 22-Apr-1999
An agent valuing a commercial property and estimating the return to be obtained without qualification, was responsible in damages where the clients would not have proceeded on properly qualified advice. The process of valuation does not admit of . .
CitedBolitho v City and Hackney Health Authority HL 24-Jul-1997
The plaintiff suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of cardiac arrest induced by respiratory failure as a child whilst at the defendant hospital. A doctor was summoned but failed to attend, and the child suffered cardiac arrest and brain . .
CitedCalver v Westwood Veterinary Group CA 24-Nov-2000
The defendants appealed a finding of professional negligence in their handing of a case in which a mare had miscarried. It was claimed that he had failed to spot a retained placenta. The laminitis she then suffered (found caused by negligence) led . .
CitedGoldstein v Levy Gee ( A Firm) ChD 1-Jul-2003
There had been a dispute between shareholders, and the defendant was called upon to value the company. He issued a tender for valuers to value the properties. Complaint was made that the tender was negligent in its description of the basis for . .
CitedA and Another v Essex County Council CA 17-Dec-2003
The claimant sought damages. The respondent had acted as an adoption agency but had failed to disclose all relevant information about the child.
Held: Any such duty extended only during the period where the child was with the prospective . .
CitedSimms, PA v Simms (Acting By the Official Solicitor As Litigation Friend), an NHS Trust (Acting By the Official Solicitor As Guardian Ad Litem), an NHS Trust FD 11-Dec-2002
‘In a situation where there is no application to the court, and the patient does not have capacity to make a decision about medical or surgical treatment, the doctor has, in my judgment, two duties. First he must act at all times in accordance with . .
CitedRoger Michael and others v Douglas Henry Miller and Another ChD 22-Mar-2004
Property had been sold by the respondents as mortgagees in possession. The claimants said the judge had failed to award the value of the property as found to be valued, and had not given a proper value to a crop of lavender.
Held: In . .
CitedPearce and Pearce v United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust CA 20-May-1998
A doctor advised a mother to delay childbirth, but the child was then stillborn. She complained that he should have advised her of the risk of the baby being stillborn.
Held: ‘In a case where it is being alleged that a plaintiff has been . .
CitedChester v Afshar HL 14-Oct-2004
The claimant suffered back pain for which she required neurosurgery. The operation was associated with a 1-2% risk of the cauda equina syndrome, of which she was not warned. She went ahead with the surgery, and suffered that complication. The . .
CitedMaynard v West Midlands Regional Health Authority HL 1985
The test of professional negligence is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill. Lord Scarman said: ‘a doctor who professes to exercise a special skill must exercise the ordinary skill must . .
CitedCarty v London Borough of Croydon CA 27-Jan-2005
The claimant sought damages in negligence from education officers employed by the respondent. He appealed refusal of his claim. A statement of special education needs had been made which he said did not address his learning difficulties. The . .
CitedBurke, Regina (on the Application of) v General Medical Council and others (Official Solicitor and others intervening) CA 28-Jul-2005
The claimant suffered a congenital degenerative brain condition inevitably resulting in a future need to receive nutrition and hydration by artificial means. He was concerned that a decision might be taken by medical practitioners responsible for . .
CitedDeep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel Group Litigation HL 8-Dec-2005
The appellants had suffered deep vein thrombosis whilst travelling on long haul air flights. The defendants said that their liability was limited because the injuries were not accidents.
Held: The claimants’ appeal failed. The definition of . .
CitedLillywhite and Another v University College London Hospitals’ NHS Trust CA 7-Dec-2005
The claimant sought damages for severe injuries suffered by their child at birth, and now appealed finding that the doctor had not been negligent. The allegation was simply that the injury could not have occurred but for negligence in the defendant. . .
CitedF v West Berkshire Health Authority HL 17-Jul-1990
The parties considered the propriety of a sterilisation of a woman who was, through mental incapacity, unable to give her consent.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the operation would be lawful if the doctor considered it to be in the best . .
CitedSutcliffe v BMI Healthcare Ltd CA 18-May-2007
The claimant had undergone an operation, after which he slept with the assistance of self administered morphine. Whilst asleep, he vomited, but did not awake to expel it, and he uffered massive brain damage.
Held: The judge had dealt properly . .
Dicta ApprovedChin Keow v Government of Malaysia PC 1967
. .
CitedWhitehouse v Jordan HL 17-Dec-1980
The plaintiff sued for brain damage suffered at birth by use of forceps at the alleged professional negligence of his doctor. The Court of Appeal had reversed the judge’s finding in his favour.
Held: In this case most of the evidence at issue . .
CitedMcFaddens (A Firm) v Platford TCC 30-Jan-2009
The claimant firm of solicitors had been found negligent, and now sought a contribution to the damages awarded from the barrister defendant. They had not managed properly issues as to their clients competence to handle the proceedings.
Held: . .
CitedMezey v South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust QBD 5-Dec-2008
The claimant psychiatrist allowed freedom within the insecure grounds of the hospital to a newly admitted but unexamined patient. He left and committed a homicide. She was suspended pending disciplinary proceedings by the Trust. An expert report . .
CitedS v Airedale National Health Service Trust QBD 22-Aug-2002
The patient had been detained, and then secluded within the mental hospital for 11 days. He claimed to have been subjected to inhuman treatment, and false imprisonment.
Held: His claim failed. The policy allowed the authority to confine him to . .
CitedMontgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board SC 11-Mar-2015
Change in Doctors’ Information Obligations
The pursuer claimed that her obstetrician had been negligent, after her son suffered severe injury at birth. The baby faced a birth with shoulder dystocia – the inability of the shoulders to pass through the pelvis. The consultant considered that a . .
CitedChristou and Another v London Borough of Haringey EAT 21-Feb-2012
EAT UNFAIR DISMISSAL – Reasonableness of dismissal
The Appellants, the social worker responsible for the care of Baby P and her team manager, were held not to have been unfairly dismissed by Haringey for . .
CitedSidaway v Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital HL 21-Feb-1985
The plaintiff alleged negligence in the failure by a surgeon to disclose or explain to her the risks inherent in the operation which he had advised.
Held: The appeal failed. A mentally competent patient has an absolute right to refuse to . .
CitedSiddiqui v University of Oxford QBD 5-Dec-2016
The University applied to have struck out the claim by the claimant for damages alleging negligence in its teaching leading to a lower class degree than he said he should have been awarded.
Held: Strike out on the basis that the claim was . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.179752