Hughes v Lord Advocate: HL 21 Feb 1963

The defendants had left a manhole uncovered and protected only by a tent and paraffin lamp. A child climbed down the hole. When he came out he kicked over one of the lamps. It fell into the hole and caused an explosion. The child was burned. The Court of Session held that there was no liability.
Held: A defendant will not be liable if the injury actually sustained is not foreseeable, if it is of a different kind from that which the defendant ought to have foreseen as the likely outcome of his want of care. Liability was sought to be established in respect of ‘meddlesome children’. The House considered the people to whom a duty was owed: (Lord Reid) ‘So we have (first) a duty owned by the workmen, (secondly) the fact that if they had done as they ought to have done there would have been no accident, and (thirdly) the fact that the injuries suffered by the appellant, though perhaps different in degree, did not differ in kind from injuries which might have resulted from an accident of a foreseeable nature. The ground on which this case has been decided against the appellant is that the accident was of an unforeseeable type. Of course, the pursuer has to prove that the defender’s fault caused the accident and there could be a case where the intrusion of a new and unexpected factor could be regarded as the cause of the accident rather than the fault of the defender. But that is not this case. The cause of this accident was a known source of danger, the lamp, but it behaved in an unpredictable way.’ and ‘This accident was caused by a known source of danger, but caused in a way which could not have been foreseen and in my judgment, that affords no defence.’
‘It is true that the duty of care expected in cases of this sort is confined to reasonably foreseeable dangers, but it does not necessarily follow that liability is escaped because the danger actually materialising is not identical with the danger reasonably foreseen and guarded against.’ A defender is liable although the damage may be a good deal greater in extent than was foreseeable, as he can escape liability only if the damage can be regarded as differing in kind from what was foreseeable.
Lord Morris said: ‘My Lords, in my view, there was a duty owed by the defenders to safeguard the pursuer against the type or kind of occurrence which in fact happened and which resulted in his injuries, and the defenders are not absolved from liability because they did not envisage ‘the precise concatenation of circumstances which led up to the accident.’
Lord Pearce said: ‘The defenders are therefore liable for all the foreseeable consequences of their neglect. When an accident is of a different type and kind from anything that a defender could have foreseen, he is not liable for it-see The Wagon Mound, [1961] A.C.388. But to demand too great precision in the test of foreseeability would be unfair to the pursuer since the facets of misadventure are innumerable . . ‘


Lord Jenkins, Lord Reid, Lord Guest, Lord Pearce


[1963] AC 837, [1963] 1 All ER 705, 1963 SC (HL) 31, [1963] UKHL 1, [1963] UKHL 8


Bailii, Bailii




CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound No 1) PC 18-Jan-1961
Foreseeability Standard to Establish Negligence
Complaint was made that oil had been discharged into Sydney Harbour causing damage. The court differentiated damage by fire from other types of physical damage to property for the purposes of liability in tort, saying ‘We have come back to the plain . .

Cited by:

CitedGroom v Selby CA 18-Oct-2001
The defendant negligently failed to discover the claimant’s pregnancy. A severely disabled child was born. The question was as to the responsibility for payment of excess costs of raising a severely disabled child, a claim for economic loss. The . .
CitedMullin v Richards and Birmingham City Council CA 6-Nov-1997
Two 15 year old schoolfriends were playing with rulers when one shattered and a fragment injured the eye of the other. She claimed negligence in the school. She appealed a finding that she was herself fifty per cent responsible.
Held: Although . .
CitedThe 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 . .
CitedMcNamara v North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council CA 21-Feb-1997
The claimant sought damages for personal injuries. The case he presented at trial differed from that pleaded, and he now appealed dismissal of his claim.
Held: The variation was sufficiently serious to justify the refusal of relief. In fact . .
CitedSimmons v British Steel plc HL 29-Apr-2004
The claimant was injured at work as a consequence of the defender’s negligence. His injuries became more severe, and he came to suffer a disabling depression.
Held: the Inner House had been wrong to characterise the Outer House decision as . .
CitedJolley v Sutton London Borough Council QBD 1998
The claimant, a boy was injured when playing around a boat abandoned on land owned by the defendant. He had propped it up to attempt a repair, and was crushed when it fell on him. He said that in not removing the boat they had been negligent.
CitedRegina v London Borough of Sutton, ex parte Jolley CA 19-Jun-1998
The plaintiff, a boy, was injured when playing on a derelict boat left on council land. The council appealed an award of damages against it.
Held: A local authority may be liable for injury caused by a derelict boat not removed from their land . .
CitedJolley v Sutton London Borough Council HL 24-May-2000
An abandoned boat had been left on its land and not removed by the council. Children tried to repair it, jacked it up, and a child was injured when it fell. It was argued for the boy, who now appealed dismissal of his claim by the Court of Appeal, . .
CitedCommissioner of Police for the Metropolis v Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL 15-Jul-1999
The deceased was a prisoner known to be at risk of committing suicide. Whilst in police custody he hanged himself in his prison cell. The Commissioner accepted that he was in breach of his duty of care to the deceased, but not that that breach was . .
CitedJebson v Ministry of Defence CA 28-Jun-2000
The claimant was a guardsman travelling in the rear of a service lorry. He fell from the tailgate suffering severe injury. He was drunk after a social trip.
Held: Though a person could normally expect to be responsible himself for incidents . .
CitedCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd CA 31-Mar-2006
The deceased had suffered a head injury whilst working for the defendant. In addition to severe physical consequences he suffered post-traumatic stress, became more and more depressed, and then committed suicide six years later. The claimant . .
CitedRobb v Salamis (M and I) Ltd HL 13-Dec-2006
The claimant was injured working for the defendants on a semi-submersible platform. He fell from a ladder which was not secured properly. He alleged a breach of the Regulations. The defendant denied any breach and asserted that the claimant had . .
CitedJohnston v NEI International Combustion Ltd; Rothwell v Chemical and Insulating Co Ltd; similar HL 17-Oct-2007
The claimant sought damages for the development of neural plaques, having been exposed to asbestos while working for the defendant. The presence of such plaques were symptomless, and would not themselves cause other asbestos related disease, but . .
CitedGerrard v Staffordshire Potteries Ltd CA 2-Nov-1994
The plaintiff was injured when working for the defendants spraying glaze onto jars. A small foreign body was blown into her eye. She said that no eye protection had been suuplied as required by the regulations.
Held: The plaintiff’s appeal . .
CitedGerrard v Staffordshire Potteries Ltd CA 2-Nov-1994
The plaintiff was injured when working for the defendants spraying glaze onto jars. A small foreign body was blown into her eye. She said that no eye protection had been suuplied as required by the regulations.
Held: The plaintiff’s appeal . .
CitedHampshire Police v Taylor CA 9-May-2013
The officer had been cut by glass when clearing out a cannabis factory. The risk assessment had identified only a need for latex gloves. She said that given the environment heavier garden gloves should have been provided. The Chief Constable . .
CitedOgwo v Taylor HL 19-Nov-1987
A firefighter sought damages for personal injuries from the party negligent in starting a fire, suffered while attending it.
Held: A property owner owes a duty of care to firemen, not, by his negligence, to start a fire, or to create special . .
CitedDevine v Colvilles Ltd HL 11-Mar-1969
The House considered the position of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitir. The plaintiff had been injured falling or jumping from a raised platform.
Held: The claim succeeded. ‘ I hold it proved that there was a general panic. Now the defenders . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 24 April 2022; Ref: scu.182841