Chapman v Hearse, Baker v Willoughby: HL 26 Nov 1969

The plaintiff, a pedestrian had been struck by the defendant’s car while crossing the road. The plaintiff had negligently failed to see the defendant’s car approaching. The defendant had a clear view of the plaintiff prior to the collision, but was driving at an excessive speed or failing to keep a proper look-out or both. The judge found that the plaintiff was 25% to blame. On appeal, the Court of Appeal increased that apportionment to 50%. The effects of the first tort, which caused injuries to the claimant’s left leg, were obliterated by the second: he was shot in the same leg in an armed robbery, and the leg had to be amputated. It was argued that the Defendant could not be regarded as having caused an injury which would have occurred in any event.
Held: The argument failed. The House restored the trial judge’s assessment of 75/25 in favour of the pedestrian. The plaintiff’s disability could be regarded as having two causes and, where the later injuries became a concurrent cause of the disabilities caused by the injury inflicted by the defendant, they could not reduce the amount of the damages which the defendant had to pay for those disabilities. So the defendants had to pay the same sum by way of damages for the plaintiff’s stiff leg, even though it had actually been amputated. Lord Reid made comparisons between the respective blameworthiness of a cyclist and motorist.
Lord Reid made general observations about apportionment in cases of this kind: ‘The Court of Appeal recognised that the trial judge’s assessment ought not to be varied unless ‘some error in the judge’s approach is clearly discernible.’ But they appear to have thought it impossible to differentiate when both parties had a clear view of each other for 200 yards prior to impact and neither did anything about it. I am unable to agree. There are two elements in an assessment of liability, causation and blameworthiness. I need not consider whether in such circumstances the causative factors must necessarily be equal, because in my view there is not even a presumption to that effect as regards blameworthiness.
A pedestrian has to look to both sides as well as forwards. He is going at perhaps three miles an hour and at that speed he is rarely a danger to anyone else. The motorist has not got to look sideways though he may have to observe over a wide angle ahead: and if he is going at a considerable speed he must not relax his observation, for the consequences may be disastrous . . In my opinion it is quite possible that the motorist may be very much more to blame than the pedestrian.’

Lord Reid
[1970] AC 467, [1969] 3 All ER 1528, [1969] UKHL 8
Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945
England and Wales
ApprovedDavies v Swan Motor Co (Swansea) Ltd CA 1949
A plaintiff brought an action for damages for personal injury against the drivers of two cars.
Held: There are two aspects to apportioning responsibility between a plaintiff and defendant in an action for negligence, the respective causative . .

Cited by:
CitedEagle v Chambers CA 24-Jul-2003
The claimant was severely injured when run down by the defendant driving his car. She was in Blackpool, and drunk and wandering in the highway. The defendant was himself at or near the drink driving limit. She appealed against a finding that she was . .
CitedRahman v Arearose Limited and Another, University College London, NHS Trust CA 15-Jun-2000
The claimant had suffered a vicious physical assault from which the claimant’s employers should have protected him, and an incompetently performed surgical operation. Three psychiatrists agreed that the aetiology of the claimant’s very severe . .
CitedFairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd and Others HL 20-Jun-2002
The claimants suffered mesothelioma after contact with asbestos while at work. Their employers pointed to several employments which might have given rise to the condition, saying it could not be clear which particular employment gave rise to the . .
CitedClenshaw v Tanner and others CA 27-Nov-2002
The claimant was a cyclist. He passed along inside a line of traffic, and collided with a lorry turning left into a petrol station ahead of him, suffering serious injuries. He appealed against a finding that the lorry driver had signalled and that . .
CitedBailey v Warre CA 7-Feb-2006
The claimant had been severely injured in a road traffic accident. His claim was compromised and embodied in a court order, but later a question was raised as to whether he had had mental capacity at the time to make the compromise he had.
CitedGolden Strait Corporation v Nippon Yusen Kubishka Kaisha (‘The Golden Victory’) HL 28-Mar-2007
The claimant sought damages for repudiation of a charterparty. The charterpary had been intended to continue until 2005. The charterer repudiated the contract and that repudiation was accepted, but before the arbitrator could set his award, the Iraq . .
CitedGray v Thames Trains and Others HL 17-Jun-2009
The claimant suffered severe psychiatric injured in a rail crash caused by the defendant’s negligence. Under this condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the claimant had gone on to kill another person, and he had been detained under section . .
CitedHalsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust etc CA 11-May-2004
The court considered the effect on costs orders of a refusal to take part in alternate dispute resolution procedures. The defendant Trust had refused to take the dispute to a mediation. In neither case had the court ordered or recommended ADR.
DistinguishedJobling v Associated Dairies HL 1980
The claimant suffered an accident at work which left him with continuing disabling back pain. Before the trial of his claim he was diagnosed as suffering from a disease, in no way connected with the accident, which would in any event have wholly . .
DistinguishedHeil v Rankin CA 13-Jun-2000
Where supervening events might contribute to the personal injury suffered, the proper approach in apportioning compensation in respect of one occasion was in general terms to provide just and sufficient compensation for the injury caused without . .
CitedSoutzos v Asombang and Others ChD 21-Jun-2011
The claimant had obtained a freezing order against the defendants. His claim having been dismissed, the court now considered if and what damages should be paid under the cross-undertaking he had given.
Held: Setting out and applying the . .
CitedJackson v Murray and Another SC 18-Feb-2015
Child not entirely free of responsibility
The claimant child, left a school bus and stepped out from behind it into the path of the respondent’s car. She appealed against a finding of 70% contributory negligence.
Held: Her appeal succeeded (Majority, Lord Hodge and Lord Wilson . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Negligence, Damages

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.185854