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 reasonable care to prevent a borstal trainee from escaping from his custody, was owed only to persons whom he could reasonably foresee had property situated in the vicinity of the place of detention of the detainee, and which the detainee was likely to steal or to appropriate and damage in the course of eluding immediate pursuit and capture. Where human action forms one of the links between the original wrongdoing of the defendant and the plaintiff’s loss that action must ‘at least have been something very likely to happen if it is not to be regarded as novus actus interveniens breaking the chain of causation.’
Lord Reid said: ‘there must come a stage when the discretion is exercised so carelessly or unreasonably that there has been no real exercise of the discretion which Parliament has conferred. The person purporting to exercise his discretion has acted in abuse or excess of his power. Parliament cannot be supposed to have granted immunity to persons who do that.’
Lord Diplock described the process by which a legal principle was to be derived from authority, describing it as inductive, testing the characteristics of the cases: ‘This analysis leads to a proposition which can be stated in the form:
‘In all the decisions that have been analysed a duty of care has been held to exist wherever the conduct and the relationship possessed each of the characteristics A, B, C, D, etc, and has not so far been found to exist when any of these characteristics were absent.’
For the second stage, which is deductive and analytical, that proposition is converted to: ‘In all cases where the conduct and relationship possess each of the characteristics A, B, C, D, etc, a duty of care arises.’ The conduct and relationship involved in the case for decision is then analysed to ascertain whether they possess each of these characteristics. If they do the conclusion follows that a duty of care does arise in the case for decision’
Reid, Morris of Borth-y-Guest, Pearson, Diplock, LL, Viscount Dilhorne
 AC 1004,  2 WLR 1140,  2 All ER 94,  UKHL 2
England and Wales
Appeal from – Dorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office CA 1969
Cited – Donoghue (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 – Geddis v Proprietors of Bann Reservoir HL 18-Feb-1878
The owner of land injured by operations authorised by statute ‘suffers a private loss for the public benefit’, and in the absence of clear statutory authority is unable to claim: ‘It is now thoroughly well established that no action will lie for . .
Cited – Anns and Others v Merton London Borough Council HL 12-May-1977
The plaintiff bought her apartment, but discovered later that the foundations were defective. The local authority had supervised the compliance with Building Regulations whilst it was being built, but had failed to spot the fault. The authority . .
Cited – K v the Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 31-May-2002
The applicant sought damages from the defendant who had released from custody pending deportation a man convicted of violent sexual crimes and who had then raped her. She appealed against a strike out of her claim. She had been refused information . .
Cited – Mutual Life And Citizens’ Assurance Co Ltd And Another v Evatt PC 16-Nov-1971
The plaintiff had been an investor with the defendant. He asked them about an associated company. He was given advice which was incorrect. He claimed damages for negligence.
Held: The company was not itself in the business of giving such . .
Cited – British Railways Board v Herrington HL 16-Feb-1972
Land-owner’s Possible Duty to Trespassers
The plaintiff, a child had gone through a fence onto the railway line, and been badly injured. The Board knew of the broken fence, but argued that they owed no duty to a trespasser.
Held: Whilst a land-owner owes no general duty of care to a . .
Cited – Osman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
Cited – Chagos Islanders v The Attorney General, Her Majesty’s British Indian Ocean Territory Commissioner QBD 9-Oct-2003
The Chagos Islands had been a British dependent territory since 1814. The British government repatriated the islanders in the 1960s, and the Ilois now sought damages for their wrongful displacement, misfeasance, deceit, negligence and to establish a . .
Cited – Dutton v Bognor Regis Urban District Council CA 1972
The court considered the liability in negligence of a Council whose inspector had approved a building which later proved defective.
Held: The Council had control of the work and with such control came a responsibility to take care in . .
Cited – Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire HL 28-Apr-1987
No General ty of Care Owed by Police
The mother of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper claimed in negligence against the police alleging that they had failed to satisfy their duty to exercise all reasonable care and skill to apprehend the perpetrator of the murders and to protect members . .
Cited – Mullaney v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 15-May-2001
The claimant police officer was severely injured making an arrest. He claimed damages from the respondent for contributory negligence of other officers in failing to come to his assistance.
Held: If a police officer owes a duty of care to . .
Applied – Tate and Lyle Industries Ltd v Greater London Council HL 24-Mar-1983
The plaintiff had constructed and used two jetties, and dredged a channel down to the Thames for their use. The Council constructed two terminals nearby, the result of which was to cause a build up of silt blocking the channel.
Held: The . .
Applied – Peabody Donation Fund v Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Co Ltd HL 18-Oct-1983
Architects proposed a system of flexible drains for a site, but the contractors persuaded them to accept rigid drains which once laid proved inadequate at considerable cost. The local authority had permitted the departure from the plans.
Held: . .
Cited – Smith v Littlewoods Organisation Limited (Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary, third party); Maloco v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd HL 1987
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 . .
Cited – The Attorney General v Hartwell PC 23-Feb-2004
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 – Binod Sutradhar v Natural Environment Research Council CA 20-Feb-2004
The defendant council had carried out research into a water supply in India in the 1980s. The claimant drank the water, and claimed damages for having consumed arsenic in it.
Held: There is a close link between the tests in law for proximity . .
Cited – Gorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
Cited – Regina v Lam and Others (T/a ‘Namesakes of Torbay’) and Borough of Torbay CA 30-Jul-1997
The claimant sought damages after the planning authority allowed the first defendant to conduct a manufacturing business in the course of which spraying activities took place which caused them personal injuries and loss of business.
Held: The . .
Cited – Hertfordshire Police v Van Colle; Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 30-Jul-2008
Police Obligations to Witnesses is Limited
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 – Mitchell and Another v Glasgow City Council HL 18-Feb-2009
(Scotland) The pursuers were the widow and daughter of a tenant of the respondent who had been violently killed by his neighbour. They said that the respondent, knowing of the neighbour’s violent behaviours had a duty of care to the deceased and . .
Cited – Glaister and Others v Appelby-In-Westmorland Town Council CA 9-Dec-2009
The claimant was injured when at a horse fair. A loose horse kicked him causing injury. They claimed in negligence against the council for licensing the fair without ensuring that public liability insurance. The Council now appealed agaiinst a . .
Cited – Prudential Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another SC 23-Jan-2013
The appellants resisted disclosure to the revenue of advice it had received. It claimed legal advice privilege (LAP), though the advice was from its accountants.
Held: (Lords Sumption and Clarke dissenting) LAP applies to all communications . .
Cited – Woodland v Essex County Council SC 23-Oct-2013
The claimant had been seriously injured in an accident during a swimming lesson. She sought to claim against the local authority, and now appealed against a finding that it was not responsible, having contracted out the provision of swimming . .
Cited – Michael and Others v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Another SC 28-Jan-2015
The claimants asserted negligence in the defendant in failing to provide an adequate response to an emergency call, leading, they said to the death of their daughter at the hands of her violent partner. They claimed also under the 1998 Act. The . .
Cited – Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police SC 8-Feb-2018
Limits to Police Exemption from Liability
The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal . .
Cited – Vedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and Others SC 10-Apr-2019
The claimants alleged negligence causing them personal injury and other losses arising from pollution from mining operations of the defendants in Zambia. The company denied jurisdiction. In the Court of Appeal the defendants’ appeals were dismissed. . .
Cited – Poole Borough Council v GN and Another SC 6-Jun-2019
This appeal is concerned with the liability of a local authority for what is alleged to have been a negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties. The principal question of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 February 2022; Ref: scu.179786