Hughes v Lord Advocate Case Summary (AC 1963)

Hughes v Lord Advocate Case Summary (AC 1963)

Hughes v Lord Advocate Case involved remoteness of damage in tort law; that the kind of damage must be foreseeable, rather than the specific damage that actually occurred.

Facts:

1. Workmen employed by the defendant (Lord Advocate of Scotland as the representative of the Post Office) had been working on a sewer hole cover and then took a break, leaving the hole encased in a tent with lights left nearby to make the area visible to oncoming vehicles.

2. An 8-year-old young boy, the claimant, encountered the uncovered and unattended sewer hole and climbed down to see inside of it, bringing with them one of the paraffin lamps left out by the employees.

3. The lamp was subsequently dropped and caused a significant explosion, which left both of the boys with extensive injuries from the fire. The defendant submitted that such an action would have caused this outcome to be deemed unforeseeable.

4. This is an appeal by the plaintiff (Hughes) against the decision of the lower Court, who held in favor of Lord Advocate on the grounds that though burns were foreseeable, the vaporization of the kerosene and the explosion were not.

Contention & Issue:

Whether Defendant can be found liable for negligence where the manner or cause of the injury was unforeseeable, but the injury is the type that was foreseeable.

Ratio & Decision:

1. Three different judges agreed that Plaintiff’s burns were foreseeable, even though the manner in which they occurred was not.

2. Where the cause of an accident was a known source of danger, namely the kerosene lamp, but the injury is caused uniquely which could not have been foreseen, there is no defense to negligence. The explosion did not create an accident or damage of a different type than what could have been foreseen by the danger of fire.

3. Thus, it would be too narrow a view to hold that those who created the risk of fire are excused from liability for the damage simply because it came about unforeseeably an explosion, as opposed to, for example, a spill of the kerosene which would have produced a more normal conflagration.

4. It was thus established that where a plaintiff’s injury is foreseeable, but the injury is caused uniquely or manner which could not have been foreseen, the result is within the chain of proximate causation and that element of negligence is satisfied.

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Om Ram

Om Ram

Om Ram is currently a 2nd-year LL.B. student at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. Previously he did Life Sciences from SVC, Delhi University. He shows his life journey by making Legal Vlogs on a YouTube channel named 'Om Ram'. He has interests in Law, Science & Film making. Some of his notable work related to photography and other interests can be seen on his Instagram. He also has a channel named 'Law Planet' where he along with his sister makes videos to make people aware of laws and their rights.
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