Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Easson v LNER  2 KB 421
TORT – NEGLIGENCE – BREACH OF DUTY – RES IPSA LOQUITUR – CONTROL
The claimant was a four-year-old child who fell out of a moving train between stations and was injured as a result. The fall would not have been possible had one of the train doors not been open at the time, but there was no way to know why the door was open. The claimant sued the defendant railway company in the tort of negligence.
Establishing negligence involves establishing that the defendant breached their duty of care to the claimant. To establish breach, the claimant must prove that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position.
Where it is not possible for the claimant to prove exactly what the cause of the accident was, the court will assume negligence has occurred if the defendant was in control of the situation and the accident was not one which normally occurs without carelessness. This is the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. If established, the defendant must adduce evidence that they were not negligent or be found liable.
The issue in this case was the level of control the claimant needed to establish to be able to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
The Court of Appeal held that this was not a case where res ipsa loquitur was applicable.
They held that for the doctrine to apply, the defendant needed to have control over the situation at the time of the accident.
In this case, the train company could not reasonably be expected to have continuous control over the doors of a moving train which was not near a station. As there was no evidence explaining why the door was open, negligence could not be presumed.
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