Nugent v Smith: CA 29 May 1876

A mare carried in the hold of the ship, died as a result of a combination of more than usually bad weather and the fright of the animal herself which caused her to struggle and injure herself.
The defendant, a common carrier by sea from London to Aberdeen, received from the plaintiff a mare to be carried to Aberdeen for hire. In the course of the voyage the ship encountered rough weather, and the mare received such injuries that she died. The jury found that the injuries were caused partly by more than ordinary bad weather, and partly by the conduct of the mare herself by reason of fright and consequent struggling, without any negligence of the defendant’s servants.
Held: Reversing the decision of the Court below, that the defendant was not
liable for the death of the mare.
The carrier does not insure against the irresistible act of nature, nor against defects in the thing carried itself; and if he can shew that either the act of nature or the defect of the thing itself, or both taken together, formed the sole direct and irresistible cause of the loss, he is discharged. In order to shew that the cause of the loss was irresistible it is not necessary to prove that it was absolutely impossible for the carrier to prevent it, but it is sufficient to prove that by no reasonable precaution under the circumstances could it have been prevented.
Cockburn CJ described inherent vice as the rule that: ‘the carrier is not liable where the thing carried perishes or sustains damage, without any fault of his , by reason of some quality inherent in its nature . .’
Mellish LJ thought that: ‘ if the jury had found that the injury was caused solely by the conduct of the mare herself by reason of fright and consequent struggling, without any negligence on the part of the defendant’s servants , I am of opinion that a plea that the injury to the mare was caused by the vice of the mare herself would have been proved.’
Mellish LJ said that in order to be an ‘act of God’ an event must be irresistible.

Cockburn CJ, Mellish LJ
(1876) 1 CPD 423, 45 LJCP 19, [1876] UKLawRpCP 52, (1875-1876) 1 CPD 423
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedTransco plc v Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council HL 19-Nov-2003
Rylands does not apply to Statutory Works
The claimant laid a large gas main through an embankment. A large water supply pipe nearby broke, and very substantial volumes of water escaped, causing the embankment to slip, and the gas main to fracture.
Held: The rule in Rylands v Fletcher . .
CitedVolcafe Ltd and Others v Compania Sud Americana De Vapores Sa SC 5-Dec-2018
The claimant appellants, arranged shipment of bagged Colombian green coffee beans, stowed in 20 unventilated 20-foot containers from Panama to Rotterdam, Hamburg or Bremerhaven for on carriage to Bremen. The bill of lading for each consignment . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Transport, Agency

Updated: 01 December 2021; Ref: scu.188035