The workman plaintiff suffered from a congenital defect, having an extra thumb in his right hand. He met with an industrial accident and fractured the false thumb. It was treated by splinting but he continued to be in pain. He was then sent to the hospital where it was discovered that the fracture had not united. He was advised that an operation was required to remove not just the false thumb, but also the top joint of the normal thumb. The result of this operation was unsatisfactory as it left him with a tender stump which rendered him fit for light work only. The workman applied for compensation on the ground of this incapacity, which applied ‘Where . . incapacity for work results from the accident’ .
Held: This later incapacity was not the result of the injury which was caused by the industrial accident.
The question of the effect of a novus actus can only be answered on a consideration of all the circumstances and, in particular, the quality of that later act or event. Questions of causation are pure questions of fact which, if they are to be answered by a judge, must yet be answered by him as an ordinary man.
Medical negligence or inefficiency can be held to amount to a new cause of incapacity in some circumstances.
Lord MacDermott and Lord Reid, dissenting, were of the opinion that in interpreting the words ‘results from the injury’ in the Act, regard ought to had for the social policy of the legislation.
Lord Reid stated that the Court of Appeal was correct in holding that it was bound by authority but he was of the view that the House of Lords, not being bound, ought to change the law as it stood. He said that not only must the new cause come in but the old must go out; there must no longer be any cause or connection between the injury by accident and the present incapacity.
He considered that ‘grave lack of skill or care on the part of the doctor’ would amount to a novus actus interveniens.
Lord Simonds, Lord Normand, Lord Morton of Henryton, Lord MacDermott and Lord Reid
 1 All ER 588
England and Wales
Approved – Rothwell v Caverswall Stone Co Ltd CA 1944
duParcq LJ set out two propositions: ‘In my opinion, the following propositions may be formulated upon the authorities as they stand: first, an existing incapacity ‘results from’ the original injury if it follows, and is caused by, that injury, and . .
Cited – Wieland v Cyril Lord Carpets Ltd 1969
The plaintiff suffered injury from the admitted negligence of the defendant. After attending the hospital she felt shaken and the movement of her head was constricted by a collar which had been fitted to her neck. In consequence she was unable to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.614914