Law of Torts - Causation In Law Cases

Re Polemis (1921)

The chatterer of a ship loaded benzene on board the ship. The benzene leaked causing the bottom of the deck fill with vapor. A stevedore, employed by the chatterer negligently dropped a wooden plank into the hold and causes a spark which ignited the vapor and the ship exploded. The owner of the ship sued the chatterer on the ground that the ship exploded due to the chatterer’s servant (stevedore) negligent. On the other hand chatterer claimed that the negligence of their servant was too remote to recover under negligence. Court of Appeal held chatterer liable and damage was not too remote. D is liable if the damage was the direct consequences of his negligence although it could not have been foreseen.

The Wagon Mound (No:1) [1961] Privy Council

Due to the negligence of defendant’s employees, furnace oil leaked from the defendant’s ship ‘The Wagon Mound’. The oil discharged into Sydney Harbor. The oil split floated across the Plaintiff’s wharf where welding was taking place. The P sought scientific advice as to the likelihood of the oil igniting during their welding operations and was assured danger of fire. P restarted their operation. During the operation, a metal dropped on the floating oil and destroyed the P’s wharf. Privy Council held that defendants were not liable for the destruction of the wharf because they could not have foreseen the risk of damage by fire. Principle: The damage must have been reasonably foreseeable consequences. "Reasonable Foresight Test"

Hughes v Lord Advocate [1963]

D opened a manhole in a street and left covered with only an erected tent and some paraffin lamps surrounding the manhole. It was unguarded. An eight years old boy dropped one of the lamps in the hole which causes explosion and he felt into the hole and sustained severe burn. D argued that the explosion was too remote to be foreseen and so not liable. House of Lord held that D had breached their duty to safeguard P from the explosion and D was liable so long as injury by burning was foreseeable it does not matter the method by which the burning occurred.

Chan Loo Khee v Lai Siew Saw & Ors

D left his car with its parking lights on the side of the road. This causes two approaching cars collided. Majority of Court held that D was not liable because he did not create a substantial risk of the collision.
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