Rowling v Takaro Properties Ltd: PC 30 Nov 1987

(New Zealand) The minister had been called upon to consent to the issue of shares to a foreign investor. The plaintiff said that the minister’s negligent refusal of consent had led to the collapse of the project and financial losses.
Held: On the facts, even if a duty of care was owed by the minister, in this case he was not in breach of that duty.
The Board noted the importance of judicial review remedies in the context of not granting damages against the mistaken exercise of powers by a Minister, or other public bodies.
The central issue is one of justiciability and the suitability of certain decisions to judicial resolution: ‘Their Lordships . . are well aware of the references in the literature to this distinction (between policy and operation areas) (which appears to have originated in the United States of America), and of the critical analysis to which it has been subjected. They incline to the opinion . . that this distinction does not provide a touchstone of liability, but rather is expressive of the need to exclude altogether those cases in which the decision under attack is of such a kind that a question whether it has been made negligently is unsuitable for judicial resolution, of which notable examples are discretionary decisions on the allocation of scarce resources or the distribution of risks . . ‘.
Lord Keith urged caution in extending the ambit of negligence: ‘The third [matter] is the danger of overkill. It is to be hoped that, as a general rule, imposition of liability for negligence will lead to a higher standard of care in the performance of the relevant type of act; but sometimes not only may this not be so, but the imposition of liability may even lead to harmful consequences. In other words, the cure may be worse than the disease’.


Keith, Templeman, Brandon, Mackay, Goff LL


[1988] AC 473, [1988] 1 All ER 163, [1987] UKPC 2, [1987] UKPC 34


Bailii, Bailii


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedCaparo 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 . .
CitedGorringe 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 . .
CitedCBS Songs Ltd v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc HL 12-May-1988
The plaintiffs as representatives sought to restrain Amstrad selling equipment with two cassette decks without taking precautions which would reasonably ensure that their copyrights would not be infringed by its users.
Held: Amstrad could only . .
CitedWelton, Welton v North Cornwall District Council CA 17-Jul-1996
The defendant authority appealed a finding that it was liable in negligence from the conduct of one of its environmental health officers. The plaintiff had set out to refurbish and open a restaurant. He said the officer gave him a list of things he . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Negligence, Judicial Review

Updated: 09 June 2022; Ref: scu.193352