Tag: proximate cause

Oil spillage

Overseas Tankship (U.K.) Ltd v. Morts Dock & Engineering Company Ltd.

(The Wagon Mound, No. 1) [1961] UKPC 1

FACTS: Petitioner’s oil travelled into the ocean. The spillage of oil then travelled to Respondents boat. Although it congealed, the Respondents’ work came into contact with the oil. As consequence, their boat caught on fire.

ISSUE: Whether a reasonable person would find Petitioner negligent and responsible for the damages caused by the spillage to which resulted in a fire.

RULE: Negligence requires a showing that defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, defendant breached duty of care, plaintiff was injured, and defendant’s negligence resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. Under the reasonable foreseeability doctrine, a defendant is only liable for injuries which are reasonably foreseeable.

ANALYSIS: The Court analyzed the holding in In re Polemis, which asserts a defendant is responsible for the injury whether reasonably foreseeable or not. In the present case, the Court found that an actor cannot be held liable for negligence for injuries which are not direct. Reasonable foreseeability cannot be rejected because Petitioner is judged by what a reasonable person ought to foresee. Indeed, this corresponds with the direct consequence test.

CONCLUSION: Although the fire was a proximate cause of Petitioner’s oil spillage, the Respondent cannot recover because the accident was not reasonably foreseeable. The Court overturned the holding in Polemis based on this rationale.

Benzine drums

In re Polemis, 3 K.B. 560 (1921)

FACTS: The stevedores created a make-shift platform to facilitate the transfer of benzine drums. When the stevedores hoisted the sling that contained the benzine, the benzine struck the wooden platform. The fall of the benzine onto the platform caused an explosion. As a result of the fire, the ship was destroyed.

ISSUE: Whether a reasonable person would find defendant negligent and responsible for the damages caused by the explosion.

RULE: Negligence requires a showing that defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, defendant breached duty of care, plaintiff was injured, and Defendant’s negligence resulted in plaintiff’s injuries. Res ipsa loquitur applies if a defendant had sole control of the object that caused the injury. Second, the accident would not have occurred but for defendant’s negligence.

ANALYSIS: In its evaluation of the case, the Court found that the falling platform caused the explosion. The Court also agreed with the Arbitrators, who found the defendants had control over the benzine. The explosion, in the Court’s view, would not have occurred but for the benzine falling onto the platform. While defendants alleged they were unable to foresee the explosion, they are still liable for damages because the explosion was a proximate cause of the falling platform.

CONCLUSION: Because the explosion was a proximate cause of the falling platform that defendants had control over, the plaintiff can recover. Indeed, the Court dismissed the appeal.