Heaven v Pender, Trading As West India Graving Dock Company: CA 30 Jul 1883

Duty Arising to Use Ordinary Care and Skill

The plaintiff was a painter. His employer engaged to repaint a ship, and the defendant erected staging to support the work. The staging collapsed because one of the ropes was singed and weakened, injuring the plaintiff.
Held: The defendant had invited the plaintiff on to the land, and knew he would be using the staging. the categories of negligence are never closed
(Obiter) ‘The proposition which these recognized cases suggest, and which is, therefore, to be deduced from them, is that whenever one person is by circumstances placed in such a position with regard to another that every one of ordinary sense who did think would at once recognize that if he did not use ordinary care and skill in his own conduct with regard to those circumstances he would cause danger of injury to the person or property of the other, a duty arises to use ordinary care and skill to avoid such danger . . Let us apply this proposition to the case of one person supplying goods or machinery, or instruments or utensils, or the like, for the purpose of their being used by another person, but with whom there is no contract as to the supply. The proposition will stand thus: whenever one person supplies goods, or machinery or the like, for the purpose of their being used by another person under such circumstances that everyone of ordinary sense would, if he thought, recognize at once that unless he used ordinary care and skill with regard to the condition of the thing supplied or the mode of supplying it, there will be danger of injury to the person or property of him for whose use the thing is supplied, and who is to use it, a duty arises to use ordinary care and skill as to the condition or manner of supplying such thing. And for a neglect of such ordinary care or skill whereby injury happens a legal liability arises to be enforced by an action for negligence. This includes the case of goods, etc., supplied to be used immediately by a particular person or persons or one of a class of persons, where it would be obvious to the person supplying, if he thought, that the goods would in all probability be used at once by such persons before a reasonable opportunity for discovering any defect which might exist, and where the thing supplied would be of such a nature that a neglect of ordinary care or skill as to its condition or the manner of supplying it would probably cause danger to the person or property of the person for whose use it was supplied, and who was about to use it. It would exclude a case in which the goods are supplied under circumstances in which it would be a chance by whom they would be used or whether they would be used or not, or whether they would be used before there would probably be means of observing any defect, or where the goods would be of such a nature that a want of care or skill as to their condition or the manner of supplying them would not probably produce danger of injury to person or property. The cases of vendor and purchaser and lender and hirer under contract need not be considered, as the liability arises under the contract, and not merely as a duty imposed by law, though it may not be useless to observe that it seems difficult to import the implied obligation into the contract except in cases in which if there were no contract between the parties the law would according to the rule above stated imply the duty.’
Cotton LJ said: ‘In declining to concur in laying down the principle enunciated by the Master of the Rolls, I in no way intimate any doubt as to the principle that anyone who leaves a dangerous instrument, as a gun, in such a way as to cause danger, or who without due warning supplies to others for use an instrument or thing which to his knowledge, from its construction or otherwise, is in such a condition as to cause danger, not necessarily incident to the use of such an instrument, or thing, is liable for injury caused to others by reason of his negligent act.’

Brett MR, Cotton LJ, Bowen LJ
(1883) 11 QBD 503, 52 LJQB 702, 49 LT 357, 47 JP 709, [1883] UKLawRpKQB 117
England and Wales
CitedIndermaur v Dames QBD 1866
The court set out an occupier of land’s duty towards his invitees: ‘And, with respect to such a visitor at least, we consider it settled law, that he, using reasonable care on his part for his own safety, is entitled to expect that the occupier . .
CitedWinterbottom v Wright 1842
Owing to negligence in the construction of a carriage it broke down. A third party sought damages for injuries which he alleged were due to negligence in the work.
Held: The doctrine of privity of contract precluded actions in tort by third . .
CitedSmith v London and St Katharine Docks Co 1868
The plaintiff sought damages after being injuring crossing a gangway onto a ship.
Held: The defendant had invited the plaintiff to the property and must have known the gangway would be used for this purpose. . .
CitedGeorge v Skivington 1869
There was an injury to the wife, from a hair wash purchased under a contract of sale with the husband.
Held: The wife had a good cause of action. There was a duty in the vendor to use ordinary care in compounding the article sold, and that . .
DistinguishedCollis v Selden 1868
The defendant installed a chandelier in a public house. It fell and injured the plaintiff.
Held: There was nothing to say that the defendant had any knowledge that the plaintiff, as opposed to members of the public in general, would enter the . .
DistinguishedLongmeid v Holliday 1851
A defective lamp was sold to a man whose wife was injured by its explosion. The seller of the lamp, against whom the action was brought, was not the manufacturer.
Held: No general duty of care was owed by a manufacturer of a lamp to a user.
Cited by:
CitedBritish 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 . .
Dicta ConsideredDonoghue (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 . .
DistinguishedLe Lievre v Gould CA 6-Feb-1893
Mortgagees of the interest of a builder under a building agreement, advanced money to him from time to time, relying upon certificates given by a surveyor as to stages reached. The surveyor was not appointed by the mortgagees, and there was no . .
CitedHedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
CitedMichael 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 29 November 2021; Ref: scu.181277