Ogwo 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 hazards to fire fighting operations. The American ‘firemans rule’ (that a public employee cannot complain if, the other requirements of negligence being satisfied, he is injured in meeting the very hazards that he is employed to deal with) has no place in English law. If the professional rescuer is not to be at a disadvantage, there is no reason why he should be unable to recover for psychiatric injury. ‘Looked at, as it should be, from the point of view of the negligent defendant who started the fire in the loft, he could foresee that the fire brigade would be called, that firemen would use their skills to do whatever was both necessary and reasonably practical to extinguish the fire and that, if this involved entering the loft and playing a hose on the fire, they would be subject to any risks inherent in that operation, of which the risk of a scalding injury was certainly one. There was a real risk occasioned by setting fire to the rafters of a small terrace house, a risk which the defendant could have avoided by elementary care and without difficulty or expense to himself and certainly not a risk which a reasonable man would brush aside as far fetched. It therefore satisfies the criterion of foreseeability. .’

Lord Mackay of Clashfearn, Lord Elwyn-Jones LC, Lord Bridge of Harwich, Lord Templeman, Lord Ackner
[1987] 3 All ER 961, [1987] UKHL 7, [1987] 3 WLR 1145, [1988] AC 431
England and Wales
ApprovedFlannigan v British Dyewood Co Ltd SCS 1969
It is an essential element of the plea of volenti that the pursuer, against whom the plea is taken, knows of the risk to which he exposes himself: ‘the pursuer against whom it is pleaded must be sciens as well as volenti’.
The courts will be . .
CitedMerrington v Ironbridge Metal Works Ltd QBD 1952
The plaintiff fireman was injured when fighting a fire at a factory where the defendants had allowed large quantities of fine dust containing aluminium and carbon particles to accumulate. The plaintiff was injured by a dust explosion caused by the . .
CitedHughes 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 . .
CitedHartley v British Railways Board CA 2-Feb-1981
A railway servant was responsible for manning a station building. He left it unattended without telling his employers that he was doing so and he left a coal fire burning inside in an open stove. The stove was piled high with coal and a burning coal . .
CitedSalmon v Seafarer Restaurants Ltd, (British Gas Corporation 3rd Party) QBD 1983
The defendant fish fryer had gone home for the night leaving a burner alight under a pan of fat. The plaintiff fireman was injured attending the consequent fire. He had been ordered onto the roof via a ladder which collapsed when the heat of the . .
Appeal fromOgwo v Taylor CA 1987
The plaintiff fireman was injured attending a fire. He sought damages from the owner whose negligence had caused it. The court at first instance (Nash J) found the land owner negligent but not liable to the plaintiff on the ground that the injuries . .

Cited by:
CitedWinter and Another v Regina CACD 6-Jul-2010
The defendants, father and son, operated a firework storage facility. Two fire service employees died when a fire was fought. They were thought to have been storing Type 1 fireworks for which they had no licence. They were each convicted of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.190048