Tremain v Pike – 1969

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Tremain v Pike [1969] 1 WLR 1556

Establishes that not all types of harm resultant from a single source can be considered of like kind in assessing tortious liability.

Facts

The claimant, Tremain, was a farmer employed by the defendant, Pike, to work as a herdsman on the defendant’s farm. In the course of his employment, the claimant contracted a disease from rodents on the farm (Weil’s disease) as the farm was suffering from a rodent infestation which the defendant was unaware of the degree of. Notably, instances of humans contracting this disease is low. The claimant contended that the defendant had breached his duty as an employer to provide a reasonable duty of care in negligently allowing him to be exposed to the rodents in the course of his employment.

Issues

Was the injury suffered by the claimant of the type that the defendant as an employer ought reasonably have taken steps to mitigate.

Held

The Court held that the disease contracted by the claimant was of a sufficiently unforeseeable nature that the defendant had not been in breach of his duty of care in failing to do anything to specifically mitigate the risk. Whilst it was reasonably foreseeable that the claimant may have suffered some form of injury from exposure to rodents (such as being bitten), this was an altogether different kind of injury to that of contracting Weil’s disease. Thus it was not relevant whether the defendant ought to have been aware of the extent of the rodent infestation as the kind of damage was too remote for the claimant to reasonably recover for it.

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