Grant v Australian Knitting Mills: PC 21 Oct 1935

(Australia) The Board considered how a duty of care may be established: ‘All that is necessary as a step to establish a tort of actionable negligence is define the precise relationship from which the duty to take care is deduced. It is, however, essential in English law that the duty should be established; the mere fact that a man is injured by another’s act gives in itself no cause of action. If the act is deliberate, the party injured will have no claim in law even though the injury was intentional so long as the other party is merely exercising a legal right; if the act involves lack of due care, again no case of actionable negligence will arise unless the duty to be careful exists.’ and ‘the appellant is not required to lay his finger on the exact person in all the chain who was responsible, or specify what he did wrong. Negligence is found as a matter of inference from the existence of the defect taken in connection with all the known circumstances’
Lord Wright said: ‘Mr. Greene further contended on behalf of the manufacturers that if the decision in Donoghue’s case [1932] AC 562, 591, were extended even a hair’s-breadth, no line could be drawn, and a manufacturer’s liability would be extended indefinitely. He put as an illustration the case of a foundry which had cast a rudder to be fitted on a liner: he assumed that it was fitted and the steamer sailed the seas for some years: but the rudder had a latent defect due to faulty and negligent casting, and one day it broke, with the result that the vessel was wrecked, with great loss of life and damage to property. He argued that if Donoghue’s case were extended beyond its precise facts, the maker of the rudder would be held liable for damages of an indefinite amount, after an indefinite time, and to claimants indeterminate until the event. But it is clear that such a state of things would involve many considerations far removed from the simple facts of this case. So many contingencies must have intervened between the lack of care on the part of the makers and the casualty that it may be that the law would apply, as it does in proper cases, not always according to strict logic, the rule that cause and effect must not be too remote: in any case the element of directness would obviously be lacking. Lord Atkin deals with that sort of question in Donoghue’s case where he refers to Earl v. Lubbock [1905] 1 K.B. 253, 259: he quotes the commonsense opinion of Mathew L.J.: ‘It is impossible to accept such a wide proposition, and, indeed, it is difficult to see how, if it were the law, trade could be carried on.’
In their Lordships’ opinion it is enough for them to decide this case on its actual facts.’
Lord Wright also said: ‘a thing is sold by description, though it is specific, so long as it is sold not merely as the specific thing, but as a thing corresponding to a description ‘
Lord Wright
[1935] All ER Rep 209, [1936] AC 85, 105 LJPC 6, 154 LT 185, [1935] UKPC 2, [1935] UKPC 62
Bailii, Bailii
Cited by:
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 14 September 2021; Ref: scu.216360