Hughes v Percival: 1883

The parties were neighbouring householders with a party wall. A builder working in the defendant’s house negligently cut into the party wall, causing the partial collapse of both the defendant’s house and the Plaintiff’s house next-door.
Held: Lord Blackburn said: ‘The first point to be considered is what was the relation in which the defendant stood to the plaintiff. It was admitted that they were owners of adjoining houses between which was a party-wall the property of both. The defendant pulled down his house and had it rebuilt on a plan which involved in it the tying together of the new building and the party-wall which was between the plaintiff’s house and the defendant’s, so that if one fell the other would be damaged. The defendant had a right so to utilize the party-wall, for it was his property as well as the plaintiff’s; a stranger would not have had such a right. But I think the law cast upon the defendant, when exercising this right, a duty towards the plaintiff. I do not think that duty went so far as to require him absolutely to provide that no damage should come to the plaintiff’s wall from the use he thus made of it, but I think that the duty went as far as to require him to see that reasonable skill and care were exercised in those operations which involved a use of the party-wall, exposing it to this risk. If such a duty was cast upon the defendant he could not get rid of responsibility by delegating the performance of it to a third person. He was at liberty to employ such a third person to fulfil the duty which the law cast on himself, and, if they so agreed together, to take an indemnity to himself in case mischief came from that person not fulfilling the duty which the law cast upon the defendant; but the defendant still remained subject to that duty, and liable for the consequences if it was not fulfilled. This is the law I think clearly laid down in Pickard v Smith 10 CB (NS) 470, and finally in (1881) Dalton v Angus 6 App Cas 740. But in all the cases on the subject there was a duty cast by law on the party who was held liable.’
Lord Blackburn
(1883) 8 App Cas 443, [1881-85] All ER 44, (1883) 8 AC 443
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedWoodland 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 . .

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Updated: 16 July 2021; Ref: scu.516945