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Bowater v Rowley Regis Corpn

[1944] KB 476; [1944] 1 All ER 465;

NEGLIGENCE, EMPLOYERS’ LIABILITY, DEFENCE TO NEGLIGENCE CLAIM, VOLENTI NON FIT INJURIA, EFFECT OF KNOWLEDGE OF EMPLOYEE, ACCDENT AT WORK, HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK

Facts

The plaintiff was a carter employed to go around the streets and collect road sweepings. For this purpose, he was provided with a horse and a cart by his employer – a municipal corporation. The plaintiff was ordered by his foreman to take out a horse, for which it was known to both of them that it was unruly and had run away on two occasions when another employee was working with him. The carter protested, but he was told that this was an order of the borough surveyor and eventually agreed to take out the horse in question. A few weeks later, the horse ran away and the plaintiff was thrown from the cart and suffered personal injuries. The plaintiff brought an action against the municipal corporation for failure to provide him with a horse that was safe and suitable for the work he had to perform.

Issues

(1) Are the defendants guilty of negligence?

(2) If so, is there contributory negligence on behalf of the plaintiff?

(3) If negligence is found on behalf of the defendants, can they claim the defence of non volenti non fit injuria as the plaintiff had accepted this type of risk as part of his employment?

Held

The decision was in favour of the plaintiff.

(1) The defendants are guilty of negligence.

(2) There was not contributory negligence on behalf of the plaintiff.

(3) The defence of volenti non fit injuria  is not applicable to this case as it does not apply to occupations that are not inherently dangerous such as working in an explosive factory or as a horse breaker.

(4) To rely on the defence of volenti non fit injuria, the employer must show that the employee undertook that the risk ought to be on him and that he was a volunteer in the fullest sense.


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