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Morris v Murray

[1991] 2 QB 6; [1991] 2 WLR 195; [1990] 3 All ER 801;

(1990) 140 NLJ 1459; (1990) 134 SJ 1300

NEGLIGENCE, DUTY OF CARE, DRUNKNESS, INTOXICATION, PERSONAL INJURY, VOLENTI NON FIT INJURIA,

DEFENCE AGAINST NEGLIGENCE CLAIM, AIRCRAFT

Facts

After drinking alcohol the whole afternoon, the plaintiff and his friend decided to go on a flight in the friend’s light aircraft. The plaintiff drove a car to the airfield and helped to start and refuel the aircraft which was piloted by the friend. Shortly after the take-off of the aircraft, the aircraft crashed. The pilot was killed and the plaintiff was severely injured. The plaintiff sued the defendant’s personal representatives for negligence. The defendants succeeded in claiming contributory negligence, but failed in claiming the defence of volenti non fit injuria. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Issue

Does the maxim volenti non fit injuria apply as a defence to the plaintiff’s negligence claim?

Held

The appeal was allowed.

(1) The plaintiff willingly embarked on the flight, knowing that the pilot was so drunk that he was unable to discharge his duty of care.

(2) The danger in embarking on the flight was so obvious and the plaintiff was not so drunk as to be incapable of appreciating the nature and the extent of the risk involved. Therefore, the plaintiff had fully accepted the risk of serious injury, which discharges the pilot from liability for negligence in relation to flying the aircraft.

(3) The maxim volenti non fit injuria applies as a defence to the plaintiff’s claim.


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