Remoteness of Damage
Doctrine of remoteness of damage: According to this doctrine damages are said to
be too remote, where the causal connection between it and the defendant's act is
regarded by the law as not sufficiently direct to create responsibility, It is
also known as the doctrine of Natural and Probable Consequence.
It is closely related to the Law of Negligence and has undergone a change in
course of time as a result of judicial pronouncements. This doctrine is also
expressed by the maxim. "In jure non-remota causa sed proxima spectator" (in
law, the immediate, not the remote, cause of any event is to be considered).
Damage must be the direct and natural result of the defendant's act. A man is
presumed to intend the natural but not the remote consequences of his act.
Dam- age is said to be too remote when, although arising out of the cause of
action, it does not so immediately and necessarily flow it, or which could not
have reasonably been foreseen, that the wrongdoer would be made responsible for
it. A man is not liable for all the consequences of his wrongful act or default.
Liability must be founded on act which is the immediate or direct cause of the
harm and injury which is complained of.
Where the causal connection between the wrongful act and injury is not
sufficiently direct, there is no liability. Legal doctrine states that in order
for a defendant to be held liable, tort must be a "causative cause" or the
closest cause of injury and not merely a "causa sine qua non".
Scott v. Shepherd
A threw a lit squib into a crowd, and it hit X. X then threw it again, and it
hit Y. Y then did the same thing, and it hit B, causing B to lose one eye. A was
held accountable to B because his actions were the closest to the damage, even
though the actions of X and Y had intervened between them. Haynes v. Harwood
the damage, even though the actions of X and Y had intervened between them.
Haynes v. Harwood
A horse van was negligently left unattended in a crowded street by the
defendant's staff. A child threw stones at the horses, which caused them to run
away, and a policeman was hurt trying to stop them so that the woman and
children on the road could be saved. The defendant pleaded novus actus
, or remoteness of consequences, which states that the child's
mischief was the proximate cause and the defendant's servants' negligence was
the remote cause.
Because such mischief by the children was anticipated, it was determined that
the defendant was liable even though the horses fled when a child threw stones
at them "If the accident was the natural and probable consequence of the
wrongdoing, it is not true" that alone prevents the court from coming to a
conclusion in the plaintiff's favor when the plaintiff has suffered damage
caused by a combination of the wrongful act of a defendant and some further
conscious act by an intervening person."
There Are Two Competing Tests Of Remoteness Of Damage:
- The test of direct consequences: According to this test "if a reasonable
man would have foreseen any damage to the plaintiff as likely to result from
his act, then he is liable for all the direct consequences of it suffered by
the plaintiff, whether a reasonable man would have foreseen then or not?
Smith v. London and South Western Railway CompanyThe grass and hedges bordering the defendant's railway line were cut by its
servants and negligently left there. A spark which was emanated from the passing
railway engine, ignited the grass there. The fire was carried away by wind 200
yards away to the plaintiff's cottage which was a consequence completely
destroyed. The defendant company was held liable despite the fact that they
could not have reasonably foreseen the consequences.
Re Polemis and Furnace Withy & CoThe defendants chartered the plaintiff's vessel to carry a cargo which included
a quantity of benzene or petrol, Some of the petrol cases leaked on the voyage
and there was petrol vapor in the holt, While shifting some cargo at a port the
stevedores employed by the characters negligently knocked out of a temporary
staging erected in the hold, so that the plank fell into the fold and in its
fall by striking something caused a spark which ignited the petrol vapor and the
vessel was completely destroyed. It was held that as the fall of the plank was
due to direct consequence of the negligence act, even though those consequences
could not reasonably have been anticipated and they were liable for the loss of
Test Of Reasonable Foreseeability: The standard of reasonable foreseeability
states that the consequences of a wrongdoing are not too remote if a reasonable
man could have foreseen them. This test of distance was supported by Pollock.
- In Rigby v. Hewitt and Greenland v. Chaplin, he held that the defendant
is only liable for the consequences that a reasonable person placed in the
wrongdoer's circumstances could have foreseen. However, it is important to note
that merely asserting that the defendant did not anticipate the results would
not constitute a sufficient defence. Instead, the Court would have to decide,
based on the rules of reasonability, whether the defendant should have
anticipated the outcome.
Overseas Tankship v. Morts Dock & Engineering Co., Ltd. (The Wagon Mound
case)The Plaintiff, Morts Dock & Engineering Co., Ltd. (Plaintiff), operated a dock
withinside the Port of Sydney, The Defendants have been the proprietors of the
vessel Wagon Mound (Defendants). Wagon Mound changed into moored six hundred
toes from the Plaintiff's wharf when, due the Defendant's negligence, she
discharged furnace oil into the bay causing minor injury to the Plaintiff's
property. However, when molten metal that fell from the wharf came into contact
with cotton waste that was floating on the surface of the water, it ignited the
oil. The wharf and two docked ships were severely damaged by the fire.
Issue: Was the fire that destroyed plaintiff's dock a foreseeable result
of defendant's negligence?
Held: The damage to plaintiff's property, while a direct result of the
defendant's negligence, was an unforeseen consequence and no liability is
Discussion: The natural consequences rule means that the negligent is
liable for direct, minor, foreseeable damage as well as for all unforeseeable
and serious consequences. In doing so, the law goes beyond the principle that a
person should be held responsible for the likely consequences of their actions.
The former rule has led to much confusion and contradictory results in the law
in some cases, a negligent person is liable for results that may be natural or
probable and are therefore considered by a reasonable person to be foreseeable
when in fact they are not foreseeable the defendant is liable for the fire if
the fire damage is a foreseeable consequence of its negligence.
- Ayush Garg
- Kashish Khanduja
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