A clear description of negligence was set out in the case Blyth v Birmingham Water Works
‘‘…. the omission to do something which a erasable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.’’ - Alderson B.
To sue under negligence, the plaintiff must show that there is:
A duty of care
Breach of that duty
In the case Winterbottom v Wright, the plaintiff entered into a contract with the Postmaster General to drive a mail coach. The plaintiff was injured when the coach collapsed. The coach had been supplied by the defendant and given to the Postmaster General. The judge ruled in favour of the defendant. Lord Abinger thought it would be ‘’most absurd and outrageous’’ to impose limited liability on the defendant who had no relationship with the defendant in the first place. The judge was concerned that if limited liability had been imposed, it would open the floodgates to countless other claims.
However in Donoghue v Stevenson, Lord Atkins established the Neighbour Principle. He held that a duty was owed when a relationship of proximity was present between the plaintiff and the defendant. On the 26th August 1928, May Donoghue went to a cafe with a friend called The Wellmeadow Cafe. Her friend purchased a bottle of ginger her and an ice cream. The ginger beer was in a bottle that was made...
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This now sealed the floodgates in the courts.
Up until 2002 in Ireland we had adopted the Anns approach until the decision in Glencar Exploration plc v Mayo County Council. They adopted the Caparo which is still used in English and Irish courts today. The plaintiffs had been granted licences by the Minister for Energy to look for gold in Mayo. They had spent a lot of money doing this project. Mayo County Council adopted a mining ban in their development plan. This plan was held to be ultra vires. The plaintiff sued Mayo county council for negligence but the Supreme Court dismissed the claim because the Council did not owe the plaintiffs a duty of care.
Now we use a four step test to determine if a duty of care exists:
Proximity of relationship;
Countervailing public policy considerations, and;
Whether it is just and reasonable
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