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Bolton v/s Stone

Facts Of The Case
  1. Stone resided in a residence close to Cheetham Cricket Ground.
  2. A batsman in a game at the Cricket Ground on August 9, 1947, struck the ball out of the ground. Stone was outside her home when she was struck by the ball.
  3. The data indicates that, in the 37 years before to the extraordinary shot, only 5 or 6 times has a ball been hit over the fence during a match. The Cheetham Cricket Club's Committee and Members were aware of the instances when it had taken place.
  4. A cricket ball that was hit off of the ground had never before struck anyone, and the street in which Stone lived was not the subject of heavy traffic.
  5. Stone filed a lawsuit against the Cheetham Cricket Club's Committee and Members in an effort to obtain compensation for the harm the cricket ball caused her.
  6. She claimed that by failing to take precautions to reduce the risk of a ball being hit out of the ground, such as relocating the wickets a short distance away from her road or raising the fence, they were at fault for her injuries.
Issues Raised
  1. what factors were relevant to determining how the reasonable person would behave, and therefore when the defendant would be in breach of their duty of care?
  2. Had the Committee and Members of the Cheetham cricket club breached their duty of care to Stone by failing to do what a reasonable person would do in circumstances where they know that it is conceivably possible that someone could be struck by a ball that is hit out of the ground?

The trial judge determined the Committee, and Cheetham cricket club Members were not negligently liable in the first instance because they had not violated their duty of care to Stone. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, this judgement was reversed. The House of Lords received a petition from the Cheetham Cricket Club.

The House of Lords unanimously voted to reject the Court of Appeal's ruling and reinstate the trial judge's verdict. The possibility of a ball struck out of the ground striking a person on the nearby road was deemed predictable by all 5 Lords. They did, however, conclude that the trial judge's conclusion that the Committee and Members of the Cheetham Cricket Club did not violate their duty of care to Stone was not unreasonable because reasonableness did not call for safety measures to be taken against the extremely small risk that someone would be struck by a ball struck out of the ground.

The cricket club was not in violation of its obligation, according to the House of Lords.
It was decided that the following elements matter in determining whether a defendant has violated their duty of care:
  • The likelihood of harm.
  • What precautions were practical for a defendant to take in terms of cost and effort;
  • Whether the defendant provides a socially useful service.
  • The likelihood of harm in this situation was extremely minimal, and it would be impossible to create a fence any higher than the defendant had already done. The community received a socially beneficial service from the cricket club. Therefore, a sensible cricket club would not have acted any differently.

According to Lord Porter:

Before a person to be found guilty of actionable negligence, it is not enough for the incident to be one that can be fairly predicted; the subsequent outcome that injury is likely to follow must also be one that a reasonable man would envisage. No matter how unlikely it is that an injury would occur, there must be a high enough likelihood that a sensible person would expect one. Even when all necessary precautions have been taken, there is always a certain amount of risk.

According to Lord Reid:

A reasonable person in the appellants' position, looking at the situation from the perspective of safety, would have believed it appropriate to refrain from taking action to prevent the danger, in his opinion. That is the criteria that must be used here.

Some of the Lords were of the view that the precautions of moving the wickets a few steps further away from her road or heightening the fence would have had little or no effect in averting the danger. However, others were of the view that what precautions might be taken was irrelevant.

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