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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018

Doughty v Turner Manufacturing Co. Ltd [1964] 1 QB 518

Distinguishing the significance of specific injuries and kinds of injuries in tortious liability.


The claimant, Doughty, was an employee of the defendants, Turner Manufacturing Company, where he worked in their factory. Doughty was injured when another employee accidentally knocked a container cover which resulted in some asbestos cement falling into a nearby vat of molten liquid. The exposure of the asbestos to the very high temperatures resulted in a sizable chemical reaction with water as a by-product. The introduction of large quantities of water within the molten liquid caused an eruption of steam shortly after, injuring Doughty. Doughty contended that whilst the incident itself was not foreseeable, an incident of its kind was, making the defendants liable, as per Hughes v Lord Advocate [1963] 1 All ER 705


Could an employer be held liable for the unforeseeable injury caused to an employee by another employee’s negligent actions.


The Court of Appeal here applied Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd (The Wagon Mound) (No. 1) [1961] AC 388 and thus held that the defendants were not liable here as the events failed the remoteness test in that the reasonable person would not have been able to foresee such an eruption of steam. Whilst the claimant submitted that splashing from the molten liquid was a foreseeable and comparable occurrence, the Court disagreed, finding that the nature of the accident was an unforeseeable one, both specifically and in terms of the kind of event as the cause of the chemical reaction by the exposure of asbestos cement to high temperatures was unpredictable.

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