Law of Torts - Contributory Negligence

It is unreasonable conduct of P which contributes to his injury along with D’s negligence. For example D is negligence for the accident but P is contributory negligence for his injury in that accident by not wearing seat belt or helmet.

Froom v Butcher – Negligence depends on D’s breach of duty. Contributory negligence is a man’s carelessness in looking after his own safety.

The Effect : If successful the amount of damage can be reduce (apportion)

Development of Contributory Negligence

Common Law

Butterfield v Forrester – Contributory Negligence operates as a complete defense. If P had contributed to his injury, he cannot recover completely. Here P ride horse violently and hit a pole which was put on the road by D. If P slow down it can be avoided.

Davies v Mann – Rule of Last Opportunity : To avoid harshness of previous ruling, this rule was developed. It means, the party whose negligence came last in time is liable. Here P fastened his donkey. D negligently ride his horse and collided with donkey and donkey died. D is liable.

Marine Conventions Act (1911) – Court were given power to apportion the liability between two colliding vessels : The Volute case applied this rule.

Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 – Finally this Act was enacted. Court were given power to apportion liability between 2 negligent parties who contribute to the same damage : Davies v Swan Motor Co. – applies this Provision.



The Last Opportunity Rule was followed.

Khatijah Bte Abdullah v Lee Leong Toh & Anor (1940) – P’s right arm injured while in the D’s bus as passenger. Bus involve in accident. D pleaded contributory negligence but court applied this rule. D if slow down might have avoided the accident.

Present Situation

Section 12(1) Civil Law Act 1956 – pari material with Law Reforms (Contributory Negligence) Act:-

i. any person suffers damage

ii. as a result

iii. partly of the fault of other

v. … the court may reduce damage recoverable to such extent which it thinks just and equitable …

Henry Trading Co. Ltd. v Harun – Federal Court refer to this section.
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