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Hartley v Mayoh & Co [1954] 1 QB 383

Breach of statutory duty under the Regulations for the Generation, Transformation, Distribution and the Use of Electrical Energy in Premises under the Factory and Workshop Acts 1901 and 1907; apportionment


A fire broke out at the factory of the first defendants and the fire brigade attended. The factory manager directed a fireman to the main switchboard to turn off the electrics. The officer switched off two master switches but failed to turn off two tumbler switches which were unconnected by any link-bar. A fireman was electrocuted to death as a result and his widow sued the factory and the electricity authority for negligence and breach of statutory duty. Both defendants were found liable and damages were apportioned between them. The first defendants appealed their apportionment.


The first defendants contended there was no cause of action under the Regulations because the purpose of the statutory provisionswas to protect factory workers in the course of their employment. They were not designed to protect fire officers and, therefore, he had no right of action even though he suffered loss by their contravention. The second defendants asserted that the fire officer was a person employed in the factory for the purposes of the Regulations because he was lawfully working on the premises and, therefore, the Regulations were intended to protect him and he had a right of action.


The appeal was dismissed. The widow had no right of action for breach of statutory duty because Mr Hartley was not employed by the factory and was, therefore, not a person for whose benefit the Regulations were made. However, the factory manager was under a common law duty to know where the main electricity switch was and he was liable in negligence for his failure to correctly identify it.

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