Overview of Negligence

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Overview of Negligence
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Overview of Negligence
We started our journey into negligence with Winterbottom v Wright (1842) 10 M &W 109. In that case the plaintiff Winterbottom was working for the Postmaster General as a driver of mail coach supplied by the Postmaster and the defendant Wright was contracted by the Postmaster to maintain the coach in a safe state. One day the plaintiff was in the coach when it collapsed and suffered injuries as result. He tried to sue the defendant in negligence but was unsuccessful. The court held that the defendant already owed a duty of care in contract, it could not also have a duty of care in tort. This case took place during the infancy of the industrialisation in the 19th century when it was in public interest to encourage innovation and technology. Similar social engineering also saw the courts in that era shield employers from actions of injured workers which would explain why the plaintiff did not sue the Postmaster. But the main reason why negligence had such a limited application was because the courts were wary of the potential of allowing unlimited actions. Heaven v Pender (1883) 11 QBD 503 took place some 40 years after Winterbottom. This is an important case because this is where Brett MR tried to establish the general principles of duty of care and expand the concept to be applied in all situations. However the court instead found for the injured plaintiff based on a duty of care owed by an occupier of land to invitees. Nearly 100 years after Winterbottom came Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) AC 562 where Lord Atkin adopted Brett MR’s reasoning in Heaven v Pender and made famous the neighbour principle. The law changed as the court deemed manufacturers were in the best position to ensure the quality of the products. Winterbottom was decided some 90 years earlier and in the court’s view, there…...

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