Smith vs Baker Case Summary 1891 AC

SMITH VS CHARLES BAKER AND CO CASE SUMMARY

Smith vs Baker case clarified the position of ‘volenti non fit injuria’ in cases where the plaintiff has mere knowledge of the risk without its assumption (Stone Quarry Case).

Volenti non fit injuria means if a person gives consent for participation in a risky act, he cannot later complain about injury caused him during the period of that act.

Facts of Smith vs Charles Baker case:

1. Smith (Plaintiff) was an employee, employed for the last 2 months at a stone drilling site by Charles Baker and Son (Defendant).

2. Plaintiff got serious injuries from the felling of stone over him by the crane which was used to lift and pass the stones, i.e. jibing over him. No prior warning was given. One of the other employees previously complained about the issue to the manager.

3. Plaintiff sued defendant. Plaintiff got compensation. Appeal by the defendant at Divisional Court dismissed. But it upheld a further appeal by the defendant at the Court of Appeal (as no evidence of negligence on part of Defendant found)

4. This appeal by Plaintiff to House of Lords.

Contentions:

1. Plaintiff contends the Defendants are negligent.

2. Defendants contend that Plaintiff already knew the work was dangerous; therefore, they are not liable as per volenti non fit injuria.

Legal Issue:

Where a risk to the employed which may cause the injury, has been done by the negligence of the employer, does the mere continuance in service with the knowledge of risks involved in the employment’s type, make him eligible to sue the employer if he suffers from the negligence?

Ratio & Decision:

Lord Halsbury

1. The defendant is liable for the negligence as there were no due precautions taken by the defendant to prevent the injury to the plaintiff.

2. Volenti non fit injuria doesn’t apply here as the plaintiff didn’t give consent as mere knowledge of the risk doesn’t mean consent to the risk (Thomas vs Quartermaine).

3. Implied consent is considered when the circumstances necessarily conclude the act involves voluntary risk. Plaintiff did not even know about jibbing over his head until the injury happened to him, and consent, therefore, was out of the question.

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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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