But up to that date it had been universally accepted that the law in regard to damages for breach of contract and for tort was, generally speaking, and particularly in regard to the tort of negligence, the same. Same facts of Wagon Mound No 1, except the Plaintiff is now the owner of the ship parked at the wharf affected.The ship suffered damage as a result of the fire. Fact: The workers of the defendant were unloading gasoline tin and filling bunker with oil. however, goes to culpability, not to compensation." The fire spread rapidly causing destruction of some boats and the wharf. Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Co (The Wagon Mound) Also known as: Morts Dock & Engineering Co v Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd Privy Council (Australia) 18 January 1961 Case Analysis ... (No.1) [1923] 1 K.B. Some cotton debris became embroiled in the oil and sparks from some welding works ignited the oil. We have come back to the plain common sense stated by Lord Russell of Killowen in Bourhill v. Young. The question of foreseeability became irrelevant and the passage cited from his speech was unnecessary to his decision. Privy Council Appeal No. The relevant facts can be, comparatively shortly slated inasmuch as not one of the findings of fact in the exhaustive judgment of the learned trial Judge has been challenged. Applying the rule in Polemis and holding therefore that the unforeseeability of the damage by fire afforded no defence, they went on to consider the remaining question. 2)|... World Heritage Encyclopedia, the aggregation of the largest online encyclopedias available, and the most definitive collection ever assembled. One aspect of this case remains to be dealt with. Yet this is just what he has most unfortunately done and must continue to do if the rule in Polemis is to prevail A conspicuous example occurs when the actor seeks to escape liability on the ground that the "chain of causation" is broken by a "nova causa" or "novus actus interveniens.". During the early hours of the 30th October, 1951, a large quantity of bunkering oil was through the carelessness of the appellants' servants allowed to spill into the bay and by 10:30 on the morning of that day it had spread over a considerable part of the bay, being thickly concentrated in some places and particularly along the foreshore near the respondents' property. In fact, the judgment shows a strong distaste for causal language, and in principle is ought to leave ‘cause in fact’ as the only remaining question of causation in tort law. It is irrelevant to the question whether B is liable for unforeseeable damage that he is liable for foreseeable damage, as irrelevant as would the fact that he had trespassed on Whiteacre be to the question whether he has trespassed on Blackacre. Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd v Morts Dock & Engineering Company Ltd [1961] UKPC 1 (18 January 1961) He also made the all important finding, which must be set out in his own words. "The raison d'etre of furnace oil is, of course, that it shall burn, but I find the defendant did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known that it was capable of being set afire when spread on water. One other finding must be mentioned. The second case was "H.M.S. Privy Council disapproved of Re Polemis. Let the rule in Polemis be tested in this way. Lord Dunedin (another of the majority) decided the case on the ground that there was there no evidence which entitled the jury to give the affirmative answer that they did to the question as put to them that the actions of libel and damages recovered were the "natural and probable consequences" of the proved negligence of the defendant. Your email address will not be published. Upon this Mr. Justice Manning said: "Notwithstanding that, if regard is had separately to each individual occurrence in the chain of events that led to this fire, each occurrence was improbable and, in one sense, improbability was heaped upon improbability, I cannot escape from the conclusion that if the ordinary man in the street had been asked, as a matter of common sense, without any detailed analysis of the circumstances, to state the cause of the fire at Mort's Dock, he would unhesitatingly have assigned such cause to spillage of oil by the appellant's employees." Suppose an action brought by A for damage caused by the carelessness (a neutral word) of B, for example, a fire caused by the careless spillage of oil. Here all the elements are blended, "natural" or "ordinary consequences," "foreseeability," "proximate cause." If it does, it is only in respect of neglect of duty to the plaintiff which is the immediate or precipitating cause of damage of an unforeseeable kind." It is true that in that case the Lord Justice was dealing with damages for breach of contract. She was there from about 9 am on the 29th October until 11 am on the 30th October, 1951, for the purpose or discharging gasoline products and taking in bunkering oil. The privy council adopted a test of reasonable foresight, judged from the point of view of a reasonable person in the position of the D at the time of the breach. Nor, clearly, had it at an earlier date occurred to Lord Wensleydale in Lynch v. Knight 9 H.L.C. Thus Lord Justice Asquith himself, who in Thurogood v. Van den Berghs & Jurgens [1951] 2 K.B. But, where they are not, the question arises to which the wrong answer was given in Polemis. The Law of Torts LAWS212. He held that the first and third conditions were satisfied, but inasmuch as the damage was due to an extraordinary and unforeseeable combination of circumstances the second condition was not satisfied. What then did Polemis decide? Even in the inferior courts judges have, sometimes perhaps unwittingly, declared themselves in a sense adverse to its principle. Registered office: Unit 6 Queens Yard, White Post Lane, London, England, E9 5EN. To Lord Russell of Killowen in the same case the test of liability was whether the defendants (Cammell Laird & Co. Ltd.) could reasonably be expected to foresee that the choking of a test cock (itself undoubtedly a careless act) might endanger the lives of those on board; Lord Macmillan asked whether it could be said that they, the defendants, ought to have foreseen as reasonable people that if they failed to detect and rectify the clogging of the hole in the door the result might be that which followed, and later, identifying, as it were, reasonable foreseeability with causation, he said : "the chain of causation, to borrow an apposite phrase, would appear to be composed of missing links.". Viscount Simonds: it is too harsh a rule to hold a man responsible that for a consequence that he did not and ould not reasonably have foreseen. The judgment of Bovill C.J. The fire spread … In two cases in 5 Exchequer Reports Rigby v. Hewitt at p. 240 and Greenland v. Chaplin at p. 243, Pollock C.B. Background facts. Perhaps he would, and probably he would have added: "I never should have thought it possible." Overseas had a ship called the Wagon Mound, which negligently spilled oil over the water. As Lord Denning said in King v. Phillips [1953] 1 Q.B. at p. 258 is particularly valuable and interesting. 253 Denning J. Their Lordships are constrained to say that this dictum (for such it was) perpetuated an error which has introduced much confusion into the law. (as he then was) said: "Foreseeability is as a rule vital in cases of contract; and also in cases of negligence, whether it be foreseeability in respect of the person injured as in Palsgref v. Long Island Rly. The validity of a rule or principle can sometimes be tested by observing it in operation. Where there is no reason to expect it, and no knowledge in the person doing the wrongful act that such a state of things exists as to render the damage probable, if injury does result to a third person it is generally considered that the wrongful act is not the proximate cause of the injury so as to render the wrongdoer liable to an action." For his liability is in respect of that damage and no other. In doing so Mr. Justice Manning after a full examination of that case said "To say that the problems, doubts and difficulties which I have expressed above render it difficult for me to apply the decision in In re Polemis with any degree of confidence to a particular set of facts would be a grave understatement. As an error the principle that foreseeability ‘ goes to culpability, not to compensation., aggregation! Name, email, and website in this browser for the website Mort 's Dock in Sydney harbour v. Industries! 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