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 parents now appealed against rejection of their claims.
Held: The appeals failed (Lady Hale and Lord Kerr dissenting) The court said that the situation did not warrant a departure from the ordinary application of common law principles that a defendant will not in general be made liable for harm to a claimant caused by the conduct of a third party.
Lord Toulson made clear that Lord Bridge’s speech in Caparo was not intended to be a universal rule: ‘What emerges [from the post-Anns decisions] is that, in addition to the foreseeability of damage, necessary ingredients in any situation giving rise to a duty of care are that there should exist between the party owing the duty and the party to whom it is owed a relationship characterised by the law as one of ‘proximity’ or ‘neighbourhood’ and that the situation should be one in which the court considers it fair, just and reasonable that the law should impose a duty of a given scope upon the one party for the benefit of the other. But it is implicit in the passages referred to that the concepts of proximity and fairness embodied in these additional ingredients are not susceptible of any such precise definition as would be necessary to give them utility as practical tests, but amount in effect to little more than convenient labels to attach to the features of different specific situations which, on a detailed examination of all the circumstances, the law recognises pragmatically as giving rise to a duty of care of a given scope.’
Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President , Lord Mance , Lord Kerr , Lord Reed , Lord Toulson, Lord Hodge
 1 AC 1732,  UKSC 2,  2 WLR 343,  Med LR 171,  2 All ER 635,  HRLR 8, UKSC 2013/0043
Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC, SC Summary, SC Videoa Summary
Law Reform Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1934, Fatal Accidents Act 1976, Human Rights Act 1998, European Convention on Human Rights 2
England and Wales
Appeal from – Michael and Others v South Wales Police and Another CA 20-Jul-2012
The deceased had called the police and said her life was under immediate threat. An officer downgraded its seriousness, and she was killed within 15 minutes by her partner, and before the officers arrived. She had sought assistance four times . .
Cited – Glamorgan Coal Company Ltd v Glamorganshire Standing Joint Committee CA 1916
The court considered the duties on police constables to protect property.
Held: Pickford LJ said: ‘[The defendants] are the police authority and have to make proper police arrangements to maintain the peace. If one party to a dispute is . .
Cited – Glasbrook Brothers Limited v Glamorgan County Council HL 1925
A colliery manager asked for police protection for his colliery during a strike. He wanted police officers to be billeted on the premises. The senior police officer for the area was willing to provide protection by a mobile force, but he refused to . .
Cited – Rice v Connolly 1966
No Legal Duty to Assist a Constable
At common law there is no legal duty to provide the police with information or otherwise to assist them with their inquiries. Lord Parker set out three questions to be answered when asking whether there had been an obstruction of an officer in the . .
Cited – Knightley v Johns and others CA 27-Mar-1981
There had been an accident in a tunnel, blocking it. The defendant inspector ordered a traffic constable to ride into the tunnel on his motorcycle against the flow of traffic. The constable crashed and sought damages for negligence against the . .
Cited – Rigby and another v Chief Constable of Northamptonshire 1985
The police were found liable to pay damages for negligence having fired a gas canister into the plaintiffs’ gunsmith’s hop premises in order to flush out a dangerous psychopath. There had been a real and substantial fire risk in firing the canister . .
Cited – Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire HL 28-Apr-1987
No General ty of Care Owed by Police
The mother of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper claimed in negligence against the police alleging that they had failed to satisfy their duty to exercise all reasonable care and skill to apprehend the perpetrator of the murders and to protect members . .
Cited – Hertfordshire Police v Van Colle; Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 30-Jul-2008
Police Obligations to Witnesses is Limited
A prosecution witness was murdered by the accused shortly before his trial. The parents of the deceased alleged that the failure of the police to protect their son was a breach of article 2.
Held: The House was asked ‘If the police are alerted . .
Cited – Geddis v Proprietors of Bann Reservoir HL 18-Feb-1878
The owner of land injured by operations authorised by statute ‘suffers a private loss for the public benefit’, and in the absence of clear statutory authority is unable to claim: ‘It is now thoroughly well established that no action will lie for . .
Cited – Donoghue (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 . .
Cited – East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v Kent HL 1941
An exceptionally high spring tide caused many breaches of the banks of the River Deben, and extensive flooding, including the respondent’s farm. By section 6 of the 1930 Act, the appellants had a statutory power to maintain the flood defences, but . .
Cited – Hedley 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 . .
Cited – Rondel v Worsley HL 1967
Need for Advocate’s Immunity from Negligence
The appellant had obtained the services of the respondent barrister to defend him on a dock brief, and alleged that the respondent had been negligent in the conduct of his defence.
Held: The House considered the immunity from suit of . .
Cited – Dorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office HL 6-May-1970
A yacht was damaged by boys who had escaped from the supervision of prison officers in a nearby Borstal institution. The boat owners sued the Home Office alleging negligence by the prison officers.
Held: Any duty of a borstal officer to use . .
Cited – Anns and Others v Merton London Borough Council HL 12-May-1977
The plaintiff bought her apartment, but discovered later that the foundations were defective. The local authority had supervised the compliance with Building Regulations whilst it was being built, but had failed to spot the fault. The authority . .
Cited – Calveley v Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police HL 1989
Police officers brought an action in negligence against a Chief Constable on the ground that disciplinary proceedings against them had been negligently conducted. They claimed that the investigating officers had negligently failed to conduct the . .
Cited – Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
Cited – Spring v Guardian Assurance Plc and Others HL 7-Jul-1994
The plaintiff, who worked in financial services, complained of the terms of the reference given by his former employer. Having spoken of his behaviour towards members of the team, it went on: ‘his former superior has further stated he is a man of . .
Cited – Elguzouli-Daf v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Another CA 16-Nov-1994
The Court upheld decisions striking out actions for negligence brought by claimants who had been arrested and held in custody during criminal investigations which were later discontinued. The Crown Prosecution Service owes no general duty of care to . .
Cited – Capital and Counties Plc and Another v Hampshire County Council; Etc CA 20-Mar-1997
Three cases were brought against fire services after what were said to be negligent responses to call outs. On one, the fire brigade was called to a fire at office premises in Hampshire. The fire triggered the operation of a heat-activated sprinkler . .
Cited – Duff v Highland and Islands Fire Board SCS 3-Nov-1995
(Scots) Firemen were not immune from suit for negligence as are police; no discretion. Lord Macfadyen observed obiter that he would have rejected a submission that the defenders did not owe to the owners of property affected by a fire which they . .
Cited – Osman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
Cited – Chief Constable of Northumbria v Costello CA 3-Dec-1998
A woman police officer was attacked by a prisoner in a cell. She sought damages for the failure of a senior officer nearby not to come to her aid, and from the chief constable under his vicarious liability.
Held: The chief constable’s appeal . .
Cited – Mullaney v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 15-May-2001
The claimant police officer was severely injured making an arrest. He claimed damages from the respondent for contributory negligence of other officers in failing to come to his assistance.
Held: If a police officer owes a duty of care to . .
Cited – Brooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others HL 21-Apr-2005
The claimant was with Stephen Lawrence when they were both attacked and Mr Lawrence killed. He claimed damages for the negligent way the police had dealt with his case, and particularly said that they had failed to assess him as a victim of crime, . .
Cited – An Informer v A Chief Constable CA 29-Feb-2012
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim for damages against the police. He had provided them with information, but he said that they had acted negligently and in breach of contract causing him financial loss. The officer handling his . .
Cited – OLL Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport QBD 22-Jul-1997
Coastguard Not liable in Negligence
Eight children with a teacher and two instructors set off on a canoeing trip but did not return. They got into difficulties at sea. Two became separated from the rest. The canoes capsized and sank. Some tried to swim ashore. Two more members became . .
Cited – Kent v Griffiths and others CA 3-Feb-2000
A doctor attended the home of a patient suffering from an asthma attack and called for an ambulance to take her immediately to hospital. The control replied ‘Okay doctor.’ After 13 minutes the ambulance had not arrived and the patient’s husband made . .
Cited – Burnett v Grampian Fire and Rescue Service SCS 9-Jan-2007
SCS At this debate on a preliminary plea the court was asked to decide if Grampian Fire and Rescue Service owed a duty of reasonable care to Mr Burnett when fighting a fire which caused to his property. Mr . .
Cited – Mitchell and Another v Glasgow City Council HL 18-Feb-2009
(Scotland) The pursuers were the widow and daughter of a tenant of the respondent who had been violently killed by his neighbour. They said that the respondent, knowing of the neighbour’s violent behaviours had a duty of care to the deceased and . .
Cited – Schuster v City of New York 1958
Court of Appeals of New York – The victim was a public spirited young man whose murder had no obvious explanation other than retribution for his cooperation with the police.
Held: It may be possible to create a case of circumstantial evidence . .
Cited – Riss v City of New York 1986
New York Court of Appeals – a young woman who had repeatedly sought police protection against a rejected suitor after repeated threats was blinded by a thug hired by him.
Held: (Keating J dissenting) No action for negligence lay. Individuals, . .
Cited – Cuffy v City of New York 1987
New York Court of Appeals – The court set out the elements of a special relationship between a municipality and a plaintiff which would negate a municipality’s claim to immunity: ‘(1) an assumption by the municipality, through promises or actions, . .
Cited – Noakes v City of Seattle 1995
Cited – Carmichele v Minister of Safety and Security 16-Aug-2001
Constitutional Court of South Africa – The applicant had been assaulted by a man awaiting trial for attempted rape. Both police and prosecutor had recommended bail despite a history of sexual violence. She applicant sued the ministers responsible . .
Cited – Doe v Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality)
Commissioners of Police 30-Aug-1990
Ontario – High Court of Justice, Divisional Court – Negligence — Duty of care — Police not warning potential victim of serial rapist due to stereotypical belief that her hysterical response to warning would scare off rapist and make apprehension . .
Cited – Hill v Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board 4-Oct-2007
Canlii Supreme Court of Canada – Torts – Negligence – Duty of care – Police investigation – Whether police owe duty of care to suspects in criminal investigations – If so, standard of care required by police . .
Cited – Minister of Safety and Security v Hamilton 26-Sep-2003
South Africa: Supreme Court of Appeal – Subject: Delict – police – legal duty to exercise reasonable care in considering, investigating and recommending application for firearm licence – liability for shooting by unfit person to whom firearm licence . .
Cited – Smith v Leurs 22-Oct-1945
High Court of Australia – The parents of a child denied liability for harm caused by their son using a shanghai.
Held: Dixon J said that: ‘It is, however, exceptional to find in the law a duty to control another’s actions to prevent harm to . .
Cited – Couch v Attorney-General 13-Jun-2008
Nzlii Supreme Court of New Zealand –  The victim of a criminal assault claims exemplary damages from the Attorney-General for claimed failures of the Probation Service to exercise reasonable care in the . .
Cited – 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 . .
Cited – Sutherland Shire Council v Heyman 4-Jul-1985
(High Court of Australia) The court considered a possible extension of the law of negligence.
Brennan J said: ‘the law should develop novel categories of negligence incrementally and by analogy with established categories. ‘
Dean J said: . .
Cited – Yuen Kun-Yeu v Attorney-General of Hong Kong PC 1987
(Hong Kong) The claimant deposited money with a licensed deposit taker, regulated by the Commissioner. He lost his money when the deposit taker went into insolvent liquidation. He said the regulator was responsible when it should have known of the . .
Cited – Smith v Littlewoods Organisation Limited (Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary, third party); Maloco v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd HL 1987
The defendant acquired a semi derelict cinema with a view to later development of the site. A fire started by others spread to the pursuer’s adjoining property.
Held: The defendants were not liable in negligence. The intervention of a third . .
Cited – Kaye v Robertson CA 16-Mar-1990
A newspaper reporter and photographer invaded the (famouse) plaintiff’s hospital bedroom, purported to interview him and took photographs.
Held: The law of trespass provided no remedy because the plaintiff was not owner or occupier of the room . .
Cited – Woodland 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 . .
Cited – Davis v Radcliffe PC 5-Apr-1990
(Isle of Man) Misfeasance in public office.
Held: No duty of care was owed by financial regulators towards investors. . .
Cited – Murphy v Brentwood District Council HL 26-Jul-1990
Anns v Merton Overruled
The claimant appellant was a house owner. He had bought the house from its builders. Those builders had employed civil engineers to design the foundations. That design was negligent. They had submitted the plans to the defendant Council for approval . .
Cited – Stovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
Cited – Gorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
Cited – Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd (MGN) (No 1) HL 6-May-2004
The claimant appealed against the denial of her claim that the defendant had infringed her right to respect for her private life. She was a model who had proclaimed publicly that she did not take drugs, but the defendant had published a story . .
Cited – Greenfield, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Feb-2005
The appellant had been charged with and disciplined for a prison offence. He was refused legal assistance at his hearing, and it was accepted that the proceedings involved the determination of a criminal charge within the meaning of article 6 of the . .
Cited – SXH v The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) SC 11-Apr-2017
The Court was asked: ‘Does a decision by a public prosecutor to bring criminal proceedings against a person fall potentially within the scope of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in circumstances where a) the prosecutor has . .
Cited – Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police SC 8-Feb-2018
Limits to Police Exemption from Liability
The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal . .
Cited – Steel and Another v NRAM Ltd (Formerly NRAM Plc) SC 28-Feb-2018
The appellant solicitor acted in a land transaction. The land was mortgaged to the respondent bank. She wrote to the bank stating her client’s intention to repay the whole loan. The letter was negligently mistaken and the bankers allowed the . .
Cited – Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust SC 10-Oct-2018
The claimant had been assaulted. He presented at the defendant hospital with head injuries. Despite his complaints he said he was not treated properly, being told to wait five hours at reception, and went home. Later an ambulance was delayed and he . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 27 September 2021; Ref: scu.541954