Shiells v Blackburne: 1789

A merchant agreed without taking any reward to enter a parcel of goods of another, along with his own at the Customs House for export. He negligently entered the goods under the wrong denomination, and both parcels were seized.
Held: The plaintiff’s action failed. Nevertheless, ‘. . . Where a bailee undertakes to perform a gratuitous act, from which the bailor alone is to receive benefit, there the bailee is only liable for gross negligence; but if a man gratuitously undertakes to do a thing to the best of his skill, where his situation or profession is such as to imply skill, an omission of that skill is imputable to him as gross negligence. If in this case a ship-broker or a clerk in the Custom-House, had undertaken to enter the goods, a wromh entry would in them be gross negligence, because their situation and employment necessarilty imply a competent degree of knowledge in making such entries.’ (Lord Loughborough) ‘. . . The surgeon would also be liable for such negligence, if he undertook gratis to attend a sick person, because his situation implies skill in surgery; but if the patient applies to a man of a different employment or occupation for his gratuitous assistance, who either does not exert all his skill, or administers remedies to the best of his ability, such a person is not liable.’ (Heath L)


Lord Loughborough, Heath L


(1789) 1 HB1 158, 126 ER 94


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedMutual Life And Citizens’ Assurance Co Ltd And Another v Evatt PC 16-Nov-1971
The plaintiff had been an investor with the defendant. He asked them about an associated company. He was given advice which was incorrect. He claimed damages for negligence.
Held: The company was not itself in the business of giving such . .
CitedHedley 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 07 December 2022; Ref: scu.181267