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Haynes v Harwood [1936] 1 KB 146

NEGLIGENCE, POLICE, RISK IN COURSE OF DUTY,

INJURY IN COURSE OF DUTY, VOLENTI NON FIT INJURIA

Facts

The plaintiff was a police constable on duty inside a police station, located in a busy street, often attended by many people, including children. The defendants owned a two-horse van which was left unattended by its driver in the same street. The driver had put a chain on one of the wheels of the van that was subsequently broken. For some reason, supposedly because a stone was thrown at the horses, they bolted along the busy street alongside with the van. The police constable saw them from the police station, got out and managed to stop them but sustained injuries, in respect of which he claimed damages. The King’s Bench ruled in favour of the plaintiff. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Issue

Does the maxim volenti non fit injuria (to a willing person injury is not done) prevent on-duty police officers from claiming damages for an injury sustained as a consequence of acting whilst being aware of the risk that this involves?

Held

The appeal was dismissed.

(1) The defendants are guilty of negligence by virtue of leaving the horses unattended in a busy street.

(2) The defendants must or ought to have contemplated that someone might attempt to stop the horses in order to prevent injury.

(3) The police are under general duty to intervene to protect life and property and therefore, the act of the police constable and his injuries were a direct consequence of the defendant’s negligence.

(4) The maxim volenti non fit injuria does not prevent the police constable from claiming damages for an injury sustained as he did not voluntary agree to take the risk but did it pursuant to his official duty.


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