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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Jolley v Sutton London Borough Council  1 WLR 1082
The relevance of the extent and kind of remoteness of damage to the imposition of tortious liability
The defendant, Sutton London Borough Council, negligently left a dangerously derelict boat abandoned on a beach that they owned, albeit they had placed a warning sign on the boat advising that it not be touched. Whilst the warning notice stated that the owner of the boat had one week within which to move the boat or have it removed by the Council, the defendant did not follow up on this. The boat was subsequently encountered by two teenage boys who proceeded to attempt to restore it, which included attempting to alter its position over several visits. The boat then fell on one of the boys, causing severe injuries, including paraplegia.
The claimant, the injured boy, alleged that the defendant had breached their statutory duties under the 1984 Occupiers’ Liability Act, suing for damages. At first instance the judge found for the claimant. Upon appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned this decision, finding that although it was foreseeable that young children may be injured playing near the boat, it was not foreseeable that boys of the claimant’s age would attempt a full restoration of the vehicle.
Was the defendant liable for the consequences of their negligent actions where, whilst a similar form of harm could be envisaged, the actual harm was not.
The House of Lords found for the claimant, affirming that only the kind of injury need be foreseeable, and not the specific outcome. It was unconvincing to submit that harm to younger children playing and harm to older children restoring amounted to two different forms of harm in the instant case.
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