London and North Eastern Railway Company v Berriman: HL 1946

Railway workers duties outside scope for damages

A railway worker’s widow sought compensation after her husband was killed by a train.
Held: He had been involved in routine maintenance and oiling at the time of the accident and was not ‘relaying or repairing’ tracks. She was not entitled to compensation.
Lord Porter said that the word ‘repair’ contains ‘some suggestion of putting right that which is wrong’.
Lord MacMillan said: ‘I recognise that when Parliament employs technical terms without definition in a statute dealing with a particular art or industry, courts of law are entitled to have the assistance of skilled persons in the interpretation of such terms. Indeed the present statute and rules contain numerous technical terms as to whose meaning in railway parlance evidence would be almost indispensable.’
Lord Simonds said that a person is ‘not to be put in peril upon an ambiguity, however much the purpose of the Act appeals to the predilection of the court.’
and ‘It is only by reference to the industry that the meaning can be ascertained . . It remains a question of evidence what the words mean in the industry. They are a term of art and it is by those skilled in the art that I must be instructed.’

Lord Simonds, Lord Porter, Lord MacMillan
[1946] AC 278, [1946] 1 All ER 255, 115 LJKB 124
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedHereford and Worcester County Council v Newman CA 1975
The council had been found responsible by the magistrates for allowing footpaths to be ‘out of repair’. The paths were unusable for various reasons including having a hawthorn hedge growing down the middle, and having barbed wire fencing strung . .
CitedDepartment for Transport, Environment and the Regions v Mott Macdonald Ltd and others CA 27-Jul-2006
Claims arose from accidents caused by standing water on roadway surfaces after drains had not been cleared by the defendants over a long period of time. The Department appealed a decision giving it responsibility under a breach of statutory duty . .
CitedBaker v Quantum Clothing Group Ltd and Others SC 13-Apr-2011
The court was asked as to the liability of employers in the knitting industry for hearing losses suffered by employees before the 1989 Regulations came into effect. The claimant had worked in a factory between 1971 and 2001, sustaining noise induced . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health and Safety, Personal Injury

Updated: 19 November 2021; Ref: scu.200610