Caswell v Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries: HL 1939

An action was brought for injuries caused by a breach of statutory of duty.
Held: A breach of statutory duty is regarded as ‘akin to negligence’.
Lord Atkin said that a common sense rather than a philosophical or scientific approach to causation was to be adopted. Also: ‘But the injury may be the result of two causes operating at the same time, a breach of duty by the Defendant and the omission on the part of the Plaintiff to use the ordinary care for the protection of himself or his property that is used by the ordinary reasonable man in those circumstances. In that case the Plaintiff cannot recover because the injury is partly caused by what is imputed to him as his own default. On the other hand, if the Plaintiff were negligent, but his negligence was not a cause operating to produce the damage, there would be no defence.”
Lord Wright said: ‘The cause of action is sometimes described as statutory negligence and it is said that negligence is conclusively presumed’ and ‘The policy of the statutory duty protection would be nullified if a workman in a factory were held debarred from recovering because he was guilty of some carelessness or inattention to his own safety, which though trivial in itself threw him into danger consequent on the breach by his employer of the statutory duty.’ and
And ‘a common law action based on the purpose of the statute to protect the workman . . [which] resembles actions in negligence in that the claim is based on a breach of a duty to take care for the safety of the workman.’ and ‘I am of opinion that the care to be expected of the plaintiff in the circumstances will vary with the circumstances; and that a different degree of care may well be expected from a workman in a factory or a mine from that which might be taken by an ordinary man not exposed continually to the noise, strain, and manifold risks of factory or mine.’ and
‘The jury have to draw the line where mere thoughtlessness or inadvertence or forgetfulness ceases and where negligence begins.’ and
‘What is all-important is to adapt the standard of what is negligence to the facts, and to give due regard to the actual conditions under which men work in a factory or mine, to the long hours and the fatigue, to the slackening of attention which naturally comes from constant repetition of the same operation, to the noise and confusion in which the man works, to his pre-occupation in what he is actually doing at the cost perhaps of some inattention to his own safety.’
As to the use of inference, there can be no inference unless there are objective facts from which to infer the fact which it is sought to establish

Lord Wright, Lord Atkin
[1940] AC 152, [1939] 3 All ER 722, 55 TLR 1004
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedJones v Livox Quarries CA 25-Apr-1952
The plaintiff had ridden on the back of a kind of tractor in a quarry and in defiance of his employer’s instructions, risking being thrown off and injured. Another vehicle ran into the back of the first vehicle, injuring the plaintiff. He contended . .
CitedWilsher v Essex Area Health Authority HL 24-Jul-1986
A premature baby suffered injury after mistaken treatment by a hospital doctor. He had inserted a monitor into the umbilical vein. The claimant suggested the treatment should have been by a more senior doctor. The hospital appealed a finding that it . .
ApprovedBonnington Castings Ltd v Wardlaw HL 1-Mar-1956
The injury of which the employee complained came from two sources, a pneumatic hammer, in respect of which the employers were not in breach of the relevant Regulations; and swing grinders, in respect of which they were in breach.
Held: It had . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health and Safety, Negligence, Personal Injury

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.272566