The statement by Lord Oliver is from Caparo


The statement by Lord Oliver is fromCaparo V Dickman[ 1 ] and represents one phase of the of all time altering law of the infliction of a responsibility of attention in instances of alleged carelessness. This paper will see theCaparo[ 2 ] determination in visible radiation of the historical instances and subsequent determinations, with peculiar mention to the infliction of public policy limitations. In order to find the logical thinking behind Lord Oliver’s remarks it is necessary to return to the early roots of carelessness.

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Enthusiastic beginnings with Donaghue

As is non uncommon with causes of action that have their roots in the common jurisprudence, the development of carelessness has been sparkling, with the initial paces being made in the landmark instance ofDonaghue V Stevenson[ 3 ] . In this instance the civil wrong of carelessness was promulgated by Lord Atkin who besides devised the ‘neighbour’ rule that indicated that a responsibility of attention is owed to anyone who it is “reasonably foreseeable” may be injured.

This trial, had a figure of failings, the most important of which is the absence of specific analysis regarding who is owed a responsibility of attention by whom. This affair was fleshed out during a big figure of instances that honed the obscure rules that were enunciated inDonaghue[ 4 ] . On the whole they were benign and simply added item ; a typical illustration beingHaley VLondonElectricity Board[ 5 ] where the tribunal held that a responsibility was owed by the Defendant to warn people who were blind about holes in the route. The tribunal held that the Numberss of people enduring from this status were sufficient to do it moderately foreseeable that a unsighted individual may walk down the street.

The overpowering significance of this, and other instances of the same period, was that where liability was being extended, as it was inHaley[ 6 ],the tribunals were making so merely after consideration of the case in points and merely they were convinced that the extension was in conformity with the rules set down by the case in points. InHaley[ 7 ] for illustration, the extension of liability was based on the philosophy of foreseeablity that could be traced back toDonaghue V Stevenson[ 8 ] .

Jurisprudence accelerated

It is unchallenged that this attack to determinations altered though there is uncertainness as to exactly when the switch occurred. Harris [ 9 ] suggests that the first intimation of an altered attack came inHome Office V Dorset Yacht Co[ 10 ] where the tribunal allowed the Claimant’s to retrieve from those responsible for running a borstal who had allowed their charges to get away ; those single had so caused important harm in the vicinity. In this instance Lord Reid had introduced the construct of liability potentially being limited if there were a sufficient justification and this thought was taken to new highs in the now ill-famed instance ofAnns v MertonLondonBorough Council[ 11 ] . Regardless of any earlier statements of purpose it was made really clear in this instance that a new attack had arrived. Lord Wilberforce dramatically extended the philosophy of a responsibility of attention into a two phase trial that required a presentation of propinquity to set up a given of a responsibility. This given could merely be rebutted by “any considerations which ought to negative” [ 12 ] the said responsibility.

It is clear that this development excessively the infliction of a responsibility of attention off from the roots ofDonaghue[ 13 ] and into a new, far more wide-ranging country of law. Although there was a proviso for public policy to be considered, the overall consequence was to increase the possible liability of Defendants through the lower hurdle of the trial when compared to earlier instances, if for no other ground than the load of showing a ground to enforce liability on the evidences of public policy fell on the Claimant.

The limitation of Lord Oliver

It is those instances that followed Anns that can be seen as the motive behind the highlighted words by Lord Oliver inCaparo V Dickman[ 14 ] . By the clip the instance had arisen, many of the absurd consequences that have been documented above had sent shockwaves around the legal system and there was a existent danger of an ‘Americanisation’ of the civil wrong of carelessness.

The instance itself has become more celebrated for its treatment of pure economic loss [ 15 ] ; yet the Lords besides made general comments about the issue of responsibility of attention. Most significantly Lords Bridge and Oliver stated that it was imperative for there to be forseeability, propinquity, and that it be just merely and sensible to enforce a responsibility. The first two of these rules existed to take the legal power back to that which existed before Anns [ 16 ] while the last added the possible involvement of public policy. Even if the hurt was foreseeable and there was propinquity in clip and infinite, a Defendant could yet win if they could show that their actions were necessary in the involvements of equity and justness.

While this may good hold been the purpose of the Lords, there is a potentially more baleful account for the judgement, a possible that is corroborated by the highlighted statement of Lord Oliver. In that statement he basically states the stiff, and nonsubjective, legal trials of foreseeablity and propinquity may take to possible unfairness. The being of a 3rd trial that is, if non arbitrary, so at least both obscure and subjective gives the single Judgess a free manus to separate past instances and make new exclusions on the evidences of equity. Regardless of motivations though it is clear that the new trial, that became the jurisprudence of the land followingMurphy V Brentwood DC[ 17 ] had a important consequence on the jurisprudence of the civil wrong of carelessness.

The consequence of Caparo v Dickman[ 18 ]and Lord Oliver’s statement

There are two effects of the instance that should be noted. The first is that, possibly unsurprisingly, the much warned of floodgates have failed to open. The state of affairs is far more kindred to that pre-Anns than post-Anns. The 2nd interesting consequence trades straight with the above agnosticism sing Lord Oliver’s motivations. Since theCaparo[ 19 ] determination really few instances have resolved themselves that rely on the 3rd limb ; the chief issue that has required finding by the higher tribunals have stemmed from uncertainness over the significance of propinquity. This is in malice of a figure of instances affecting public functionaries that could good hold been deemed to be contrary to public policy. The one noteworthy illustration where it was invoked was Hill v CC of West Yorkshire [ 20 ] where the English tribunals denied a claim that involved constabularies failure on the evidences of public policy. It is likely that a important motive in restricting the comprehensiveness of public policy logical thinking is the subsequent over-turning by the European Court of Human Rights [ 21 ] who stated that the grounds that had been given by the lower tribunals were deficient when balanced against the rights of the Claimant.


It can be seen from the above treatment that the statement by Lord Oliver inCaparo V Dickman[ 22 ] had two clear intents. The first, and specifically to the civil wrong of carelessness, was to return from the explosive attack inAnns[ 23 ] to the stricter reading ofDonaghue[ 24 ] and subsequent instances. While this by itself was important, there was another, broader effect of the determination. It confirmed that the attack by the British tribunals to potentially fresh instances would be the traditional, incremental attack as opposed to the elephantine stairss that had been taken in other instances. While the former can easy be seen as the most important within the confines of carelessness, the latter was a critical presentation of the new attack of the higher tribunals towards case in point as a whole.


Anns v Merton London Borough Council ( 1978 ) AC 728

Caparo V Dickman ( 1990 ) 1 All ER 568

Donaghue V Stevenson [ 1932 ] AC 568

Haley V London Electricity Board ( 1965 ) AC 778

Hill V Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [ 1989 ] AC 53

Home Office V Dorset Yacht Co. [ 1970 ] AC 1004

Murphy V Brentwood DC [ 1991 ] 1 AC 398

Osman V United Kingdom ( 1999 ) 11 Admin LR 200 ( ECHR ) 201

‘An Introduction to Law’Phil Harris

Published by Cambridge Press, 6ThursdayEdition

‘Tort Law ; Text and Materials’Mark Lunney & A ; Ken Oliphant

Published by Oxford University Press

‘A Comparative Study of the English and German Judicial Approach to the Liability of Public Bodies in Negligence.’ Ralph Surma

Oxford University Comparative Law Forum ( 2000 )

‘Tort Law’R Bagshaw, N McBride

Published by Longman Law ( 2005 )

‘Tort Law’Frances Quinn, Catherine Elliott

Published by Longman Law ( 2005 )


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