Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Haley v London Electricity Board  AC 778
TORT – NEGLIGENCE – FACTORS RELEVANT TO BREACH OF DUTY
The defendant’s employees dug a hole in a pavement. When they left the area on their break, they realised that they had not been provided with the necessary materials to fence off the area. They thought it would be sufficient to leave an upright shovel near the hole as a warning to any pedestrians who passed through. The claimant, however, was blind and so did not see the warning. As a result, he fell into the pit and sustained injuries.
Establishing the tort of negligence involves establishing that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care, which they breached in a manner which caused the claimant recoverable harm. To establish a breach of any duty owed, the claimant must establish that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position.
The issue was whether the defendant was in breach of their duty, given that they argued that they had taken sufficient steps to enable normally-sighted people to be safe. They argued that it was not foreseeable that a blind person would enter the area without assistance.
The defendant was held to be in breach of their duty of care.
The extent to which the harm was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s actions was indeed a crucial factor when determining how a reasonable person would behave in the circumstances.
However, the court was not convinced that it was unforeseeable that a blind person would walk down the street. If it was sufficiently foreseeable that a disabled person would be at risk of harm, the court held, the defendant was obliged to take reasonable steps to protect them from harm, not just able-bodied persons.
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